A critical factor in improving employee performance is an inspiring leader. However, organizations often neglect to consider the difference between leadership and management. Managers who have all the technical skills don’t necessarily know how to inspire a team and promote individual growth. With a lack of effective leadership skills, it should be no surprise that employee engagement can be such a challenge. Fortunately, with the right corporate training design strategy, leaders can learn the skills needed to engage employees.

Managers Versus Leaders

How do you tell a manager from a leader? To paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between managers and leaders is like the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. Managers tend to focus on policy and rules to create effective processes that maximize efficient task completion. They see their teams as machines that turn inputs into outputs and view individuals as being as interchangeable as replacement parts.

Leaders, by contrast, know that teams are composed of human beings with thoughts, feelings and emotions and that teams do their best work when they are inspired as individuals. Leaders go beyond the practices of managers by engaging and motivating their teams using the soft skills that appeal to their human needs.

It’s important to note that both management and leadership are necessary for an organization to be successful, but leadership skills are less common among the workforce.

Leadership Soft Skills

Any good facilitator knows that leadership isn’t a mysterious quality that only a chosen few possess. With the right leadership development training, you can shape managers into inspiring leaders by deploying custom training activities aimed at a few key soft skills:


Creating a mental blueprint of the future helps leaders align daily activities with long-term strategic goals. And when leaders clearly convey this vision to their team, employees have a greater sense of security about what lies ahead. This security makes them better prepared to overcome obstacles along the way and tackle challenges that arise. Moreover, the vision that leaders create for their teams doesn’t have to be completely original. A strong vision can be based on what a leader sees as the team’s role in the organization’s objectives.

But how does one promote vision as a soft skill? It might seem subjective, as are many soft skills. However, there are tangible strategies, such as assessing the unique skills of individual employees or long-term planning, that serve as the foundation of vision. The role of employee training and development teams must be to ground abstract ideas into tangible behaviors and quantifiable knowledge.

Active Listening

There are numerous conversational skills that contribute to the positive workplace relationships that improve employee engagement and team cohesion. Active listening is, perhaps, one of the most important. Beyond enabling them to pick up on information that they might miss if communication fails, active listening also helps leaders learn more about their employees’ performance challenges. Then, they can use that information to create personalized employee performance improvement plans.

Active listening, as well as other conversation skills, can ask a lot of leaders: Many of these soft skills are often dependent on educated interpretations of eye contact, facial expressions and body language. However, with the immersive simulations that have become commonplace in custom eLearning activities, training for these conversational skills is much more manageable.

Giving Feedback

If a goal of leadership is to improve employee performance on the job, then delivering feedback is one of the more direct way to do so. Regularly sitting down with individual team members and openly discussing their performance is a frequently forgotten practice, but consistently receiving structured feedback gives employees the insight they need to direct their performance improvement efforts.

Because this skill, like other conversational soft skills, is based on human interaction, custom eLearning activities alone may not bring about the best learning outcomes. Instead, consider a blended learning or hybrid learning strategy that pairs simulations with an instructor-led training (ILT) role-play scenario.

Building Better Leaders With Corporate Training

Today’s workplace is suffering from a shockingly low rate of employee engagement. Though it is definitively a training challenge, the solution is not for frontline and entry-level employees alone. One of the best ways to address employee engagement challenges is to turn managers into leaders who inspire their teams to grow. A focus on procedures and processes can be effective, but especially as out work moves toward virtual environments, leadership soft skills will become vital to organizational success. Luckily, those skills are quite teachable.