Leadership Traits vs. Leadership Skills

What Makes a Great Leader? Is it Leadership Skills or Leadership Traits?

Leadership skills or leadership traits? Which is more important for aspiring leaders? While “leadership skills” and “leadership traits” are often used interchangeably, they really are two different things.

A skill is applying knowledge to perform a task well. However, a trait is a personal quality or characteristic that is part of someone’s personality, demeanor or nature.

Examples of Leadership Traits

There are many personality traits and characteristics that make effective leaders. They can be individual traits or be part of an overall leadership style. Here are a few examples that most people agree would describe a great leader:

  • Charisma — Great leaders are often charming and can attract and inspire others. This leadership trait is sometimes also thought of as having a strong presence or personal magnetism.
  • Confidence — Confidence allows leaders to set goals and achieve them. The appearance of confidence inspires others to support a leader’s vision and listen to what they say. Confidence is a leadership trait that can be improved and increased with some practice and effort.
  • Optimism — Successful leaders are usually the type of people who see the glass half-full instead of half-empty. In the words of Winston Churchill, “The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.” Being able to believe in possibilities is essential to great leadership.
  • Perseverance — Drive, determination and perseverance are all common descriptions of great leadership. The ability to keep going when things are tough, solve problems, and stay motivated are important leadership traits.
  • Integrity —Integrity means having a strong moral compass and consistently practicing honesty and transparency. Great leaders must be trustworthy and accountable to their teams, colleagues and partners.

Examples of Leadership Skills

There are many skills needed to be a great leader. Importantly, leadership skills can be developed and improved with training and effort. Here are just a few examples of skills every leader needs to be successful:

  • Decision Making — Effective leadership requires using knowledge and experience to make important decisions at work. Leaders must make hundreds of daily choices, ranging from simple issues to complex strategic decisions. Sharpening decision-making skills will help anyone become a better leader.
  • Communication — Great leaders can share their vision with others. They are skilled at finding the right words to inspire their team members and keep projects on track by applying excellent communication skills.
  • Emotional Intelligence — Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage their own emotions, as well as the feelings of others. This important skill can determine success in the workplace. Emotional intelligence skills can help leaders improve team morale, increase employee retention, and attract loyal customers.
  • Strategic Thinking — Analyzing opportunities from a broad perspective and understanding or predicting potential outcomes is an essential leadership skill. Strategic thinking is key to identifying opportunities, anticipating trends and determining the best path forward.
  • Innovation — The best leaders are not only skilled in innovation, they inspire innovation in their teams! This important leadership skill allows businesses to grow by developing new products and services or improving existing ones. Innovation can also mean finding better ways to get work done, new ways to streamline processes and generally improve things.

Leadership Skills vs. Leadership Traits – Which is More Important?

Leadership skills and leadership traits work best when they are combined. For example, in tough economic times, a great leader must have perseverance and be skilled at strategic thinking. Likewise, effective decision-making requires confidence. The most effective leaders possess positive leadership traits and have worked to develop skills crucial to success.

Fortunately, leadership traits are not set in stone, anyone can change and grow if they want to! Crestcom knows that leadership skills are developed through effort and intention. While some leadership traits may come naturally to some, they can also be strengthened and improved over time. In Crestcom’s interactive leadership training programs, participants develop leadership skills and traits by learning, practicing, and mastering leadership competencies over time.