A comprehensive leadership skills list that will help you understand key leadership skills needed to drive value and assess areas for improvement.
Leaders establish clear responsibilities and processes for monitoring, communicating progress, and measuring results for tasks, projects, and initiatives. Without accountability for one’s own responsibilities, as well as the ability to hold others accountable, a leader is unable to drive for results from their team to produce value for the organization. A lack of accountability also erodes trust among team members and colleagues, which will harm the leader’s ability to influence decisions and internal networks.
2. Decision Making
Leaders and managers make decisions every day. Some of those decisions are quite small, while others have long-term financial implications for the business. Great leaders are skilled in being able to use and understand the information available and have great judgment to make a timely decision. No matter how competent or experienced the leader is, there are times when the wrong decision will be made. When this happens, a great leader has the capacity to recognize the error, take responsibility for it, and then correct it and keep moving forward.
3. Asking the Right Questions
Asking the right questions is a tough leadership skill to master for many. It is often our first instinct to dive directly into problem-solving mode. However, being a leader does not just mean making all the decisions and assigning marching orders. You need to be able to coach your team through the thought process to encourage them to think for themselves and engage them in the solution. Often, you will find that asking questions of your “front line” employees will uncover the root causes of problems and lead to better solutions.
4. Hiring the Right Talent
Arguably one of the most important leadership skills has to do with your ability to attract and select high caliber talent to best meet the needs of the organization. This skill starts with your ability to bring the right people on your team, but it also requires you to be able to keep your team engaged and motivated so that they will want to stay on your team and be happy to refer more talent to the organization as you continue to grow and hire. Your current employees have the ability to help or hinder your ability to find more great employees. Make sure you are facilitating the kind of work environment that will make them want to help bring great new talent in.
5. Multigenerational Leadership
Multigenerational leadership skills are getting more and more attention these days. As Baby Boomers are staying in the workforce longer and Generation Z (those in their early to mid-twenties, currently) are just beginning to enter the workplace in significant numbers, leaders must find a way to understand and value the importance of a generationally diverse workforce. With four generations being represented in the workplace today, a great leader will seize the advantages to be gained by promoting and leveraging different perspectives, skills, experiences, and working styles.
6. Organizing & Developing Teams
As anyone who has ever played (or even read about) any kind of team sport knows, even a team of all-stars won’t get far without the ability to work past individual grandeur and work as a team. Establishing common goals and creating an environment where your team feels comfortable collaborating and a sense of belonging is how you lead your team to shared success in executing initiatives and producing value for the organization.
7. Open & Effective Communication
A great leader doesn’t just talk. They are skilled in active listening and fostering open communication through questioning, dialogue, and information sharing. They are also able to foster a culture of open and effective communication within their teams, beyond on a one-on-one basis.
8. Negotiation & Building Consensus
This is a leadership skill that some find difficult to develop. A leader who is strong in negotiation and building consensus is able to advocate ideas and achieve mutually successful outcomes. This happens internally as well as externally so that the leader is able to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with internal teams as well as customer and vendor stakeholders.
9. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is another leadership skill that has really gotten a lot more attention just in the last few years but it has always been and will always be important. Leaders and managers must have strong emotional intelligence skills to manage their own emotions through tough, stressful times as well as have the social awareness to empathize with others’ emotions.
10. Generates Business Insights
Building off of decision making and asking the right questions, leaders must possess the skills to use their knowledge of business drivers, trends, and how organizations make money to make good decisions, guide actions, and generate insights that translate to strategic or competitive advantages.
11. Financial Management
Financial management is far too important to ignore and simply leave to the finance department. Leaders and managers must have the ability to use financial indicators and analysis to evaluate options and proactively manage financial results to create value for the organization. We all have managed a budget, but are you aware of the Key Performance Indicators that are important to measuring the processes in your department or business? Do you monitor your KPIs and make assessments and adjustments when necessary to increase performance and improve your bottom line?
12. Productivity & Process Efficiency
It is all well and good to be putting in the hours and keeping busy while you are at work. But do you have the skills to recognize synergies and processes in need of improvement? Do you look for ways to address problems or improve productivity and efficiency? A leader should work on developing this skill to be able to modify and improve processes that impact the company’s strategic position.
13. Defines & Communicates Vision
Perhaps the most important skill a leader must develop is the ability to communicates a compelling picture of the future that connects and motivates others to action. Your team invests the majority of their day, every day, to work toward your vision. Do you want them doing this simply to get a paycheck? Or would you rather see them investing their time and expertise because they are passionate about and share in your vision of the future?
14. Strategic Thinking
Leaders must be able to connect their vision with the big picture of future possibilities and create strategic connections to achieving that vision that leads to a competitive advantage.
15. Plans & Priorities
Your vision and strategy will only get you so far without formulated objectives and priorities that provide the roadmap to achievement. A leader must then be able to implement and monitor plans that align with the long-term strategy of the organization to ultimately execute the vision.
16. Delegation & Empowerment
To bring your team along with you on the long road to achieving your vision, you must establish clear performance goals that encourage them to personally connect to their job. Talented individuals want the ability to keep growing, keep learning by taking on new challenges and responsibilities. Allow them to do so by delegating responsibilities and empowering your team to take them on themselves.
17. Coaching & Encouraging
Building on delegation and empowerment, as a leader you must develop the coaching skills that allow you to develop others by providing clear feedback on performance and offering positive coaching advice and opportunities to develop skills.
18. Rewards & Recognition
When your team or individuals on your team achieve great results, the best way to engage and foster more positive behavior is to reward and recognize them for their valuable work. This can come in a variety of forms, from simple to elaborate, but must always provide specific, meaningful, and timely recognition to individuals and teams for their results
Some leaders and managers have a tendency to try to do everything on their own. They know how they want things done, and they feel like they are the only ones who can do it. A successful leader has developed strong skills in building partnerships and working collaboratively with others to accomplish more than they ever would be able to on their own and empower others by achieving shared objectives.
Before you think “Ick…” and scroll right past this one, recognize that networking is a highly important leadership skill that probably gets the worst rap. I’m not just talking about going out to networking events and exchanging business cards with insurance sales reps. We’re talking about establishing relationship networks and alliances both inside and outside of your organization that creates value for you and the organization. Building a network exposes you to a brain trust of new ideas and technologies, industry insights, global trends, and different perspectives. Building a network, both inside and outside the organization, provides you with resources that you can leverage to influence new ideas and initiatives to move the organization forward.
21. Conflict Management
Many leaders and managers confuse conflict management with conflict resolution. Improve your conflict management skills through encouraging respectful, professional differences of opinions. Also develop the skills to anticipates, manage, and resolve conflicts that do arise in a constructive manner.
22. Customer Trust & Credibility
Trust and credibility of your brand are developed by building strong customer relationships by following through on commitments. Building trust and credibility is tough, losing it is easy. Build and maintain it through accountability, consistency, proficiency, and quality.
23. Responsive Problem-Solving
Managers and leaders must be able to anticipate and deliver effective and timely solutions to customer problems to build relationships and maintain trust and credibility. This includes proactively recognizing potential problems, as well as dealing with problems as they arise in a way that keeps customers coming back, despite the problems they are experiencing with your brand.
24. Needs & Opportunity Awareness
Leaders and managers must also be skilled in proactively identifying opportunities that benefit customers, which will improve customer relationships and ultimately result in a competitive advantage.
25. Change Leadership & Management
Our world seems to be in a constant state of change these days. A great leader is able to ride these changes and harness them into a strategic advantage. They role model embracing change and implement new initiatives effectively within teams and organizations.
26. Continuous Improvement
Leaders and managers cannot stay comfortable with the status quo. They must be influencing an ongoing effort to develop new and better ideas, and new ways of solving internal and customer problems.
27. Complex Thinking
You are likely faced with difficult issues and complex problems on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Developing complex thinking skills allows you to adapt your approach, if needed, and develop the best solution to these difficult issues, which may involve factors that may be out of your control, such as changes in environment or facts.
28. Self Awareness
As a leader, you must have the self-awareness to clearly understand your own emotions, thoughts, motivations, strengths, and development needs and how they affect others on your team and your organization as a whole.
29. Continuous Learning
They say “School is never out for the pro.” Proactively develop and improve your leadership skills and knowledge. Never stop learning and readily volunteer for new projects and challenges that will help you develop both personally and professionally.
30. Managing Personal Energy & Time
You are likely expending much of your time and energy on the development of your team and the growth of your business. But, you must recognize that you can not take care of these responsibilities unless you are first taking care of yourself. Establish rituals and responses to manage your personal energy to enable greater presence and focus both in your professional life and your personal life.