Interpersonal Leadership Skills Are Critical for First-Time Administrators

A 2017 ICMA Annual Conference session—Soft Skills for Success—will focus on those skills that are often the key to success for a first-time manager.

Jul 18, 2017 | ARTICLE

Research can show that there are common traits that make for a successful manager and will help the manager become a better leader in tough times. A good leader will:

  1. Know Their Limits
  2. Know Their Staff
  3. Know Their Stuff
  4. Know What’s Coming
  5. Know Thyself

Having been in the management workforce, you probably have traits 1 through 4 down to a science; however, No. 5, Knowing Thyself, could be the one that is most often taken for granted.

Knowing thyself means having an understanding and awareness of your soft skills. Soft skills—or what are also called interpersonal leadership skills—are important skills needed for a manager’s career. These skills include:

  • Listening
  • Diplomacy
  • Empathy
  • Insight
  • Conflict resolution
  • Tolerance of change and uncertainty
  • Empathy

Although difficult to quantify, they can define a person’s leadership style and career.

Leadership comes in many styles, and history is full of examples of when a leader's judgment was a critical part in the success or failure of an initiative. In today's challenging environment, with simultaneous demands for control and release, delicacy and power, the public management professional must take note of the importance of what sound judgment is. Then, how to effectively meld the interpersonal with the day-to-day tasks.

Having an opportunity to discover and discuss these interpersonal skills, and to understand how they compete and complement the other parts of a manager’s work-day life, will bring a sense of mastery and, in some, increased confidence, improved decision making, and greater work satisfaction. For your organization, there will be increased efficiency; and as you became stronger, so do your organizations.

Landing your first managemnt position is a career-defining moment. The technical skills and varied experiences learned along the way provide you with the “know how” to do the job. The key to success will rest largely on your interpersonal skills. “Know thyself” is the first step to understanding how to build effective relationships and to navigate challenges.

To assist first-time administrators on their path to success, a special session will be offered at the 2017 Annual Conference, where the session Soft Skills for Success will be held on Saturday, October 21, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Session moderator Midwest Regional Director David Limardi will focus on understanding how to build effective relationships, on navigating challenges, and on providing the tools to set you on the path to understanding interpersonal leadership. The session will also explore the tangible challenges you are likely to face leading your first organization. As part of the session, you will take an online assessment designed to help you use personal analytics to enhance judgment, insight, and leadership ability. Personal analytics gives you the data necessary to truly know yourself so you can lead yourself and others. The assessment results will be discussed in detail at the session.

As a complement to this session, first-time administrators are invited to attend the Soft Skills for Success networking session on Tuesday, October 24, 3:00 to 4:45 p.m.

If you are a first-time administrator, Soft Skills for Success is the session for you.

To add this offering to your registration, contact

If you have not registered for the 2017 conference, register today! The “add to my schedule button” will take you through the event registration process.

Resources and References:

ICMA Blog: The Power of Personal Analytics, February 5, 2016

ICMA Blog: 5 Future Leadership Attributes for the Public Administrator, November 8, 2016 

ICMA Blog: 5 Priorites a New Local Government Leader Must Focus On, April 6, 2016

April 2017 PM magazine: So You’re the City Manager, Alexander Briseno, p. 32

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