10 Key Skills for Leaders (With Examples and Tips) – CV Nation

10 Key Skills for Leaders - With Examples, Definitions and Tips

The ultimate guide to the most important leadership skills and the key qualities of leaders, with examples, definitions and tips for all leaders.

We all know leadership is a very important skill for managers, executives and people in senior positions. Leadership is also a key skill for junior professionals, as it provides a platform for career progression and the successful management of daily tasks.

But what are leadership skills? Which leadership competencies are most essential and what are the qualities of great leaders?

These are common questions that many jobseekers ask, and we’ll answer them all in this guide.

Key Leadership Skills

1. Communication

Communication is one of the most important skills for leaders. Leaders who communicate effectively are able to convey their visions, build valuable relationships and influence team members.

Communication consists of many different skills. In fact, Dr. Albert Mehrabian theorised that communication is only 7% verbal.

Skills and traits that make up communication include active listening, presentation, confidence, emotional intelligence and coherence.

2. Relationship Building

Great leaders must be able to build robust relationships with their followers in order to influence and motivate them. When team members and employees have strong relationships with their leaders, they’re more likely to perform to high standards and achieve their goals.

The ability to forge new relationships with partners, clients, suppliers and other external parties is also fundamental to the growth of organisations.

3. Influencing

Leadership is all about influencing people. Managers and executives who are great at influencing are able to motivate others to achieve their goals. Good influencing skills can also lead to improved productivity, stronger relationships and better work environments.

Leaders who are effective influencers are simply more likely to get results.

Some leaders are able to influence others naturally, seemingly without even trying. While other leaders utilise various skills to become good influencers, such as communication, confidence, presentation and specific influencing techniques.

4. Adaptability

Adaptability is a key skill for leaders as it enables them to effectively manage change.

Japanese scholar Okakura Kakuzō once said, ‘The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings’.

This quote sums up the importance of adaptability for leaders perfectly. We can all be certain that change is inevitable. Being able to effectively adapt to change is what separate good leaders and great leaders.

5. Employee Motivation

When employees and teams are motivated, they perform to higher standards and are much more likely to achieve their goals. As such, the ability to motivate teams is an essential leadership skill.

The best leaders and managers use various techniques and processes to motivate their workforce. For example, as indicated in a research by Gallup, employees who are involved in their manager’s goal setting are 3.6x more likely to be engaged in their work.

Other strategies that leaders may use to improve staff motivation include implementing incentive programmes, developing cultures of respect and giving employees freedom to make their own decisions.

6. Integrity

As leaders with integrity tend to be trusted by employees and teams, they’re much more likely to successfully motivate them and get better results.

Most people want to work for leaders with integrity. They want to be able to trust their leaders and know that they’re prepared to do the right thing.

As such, integrity is a key leadership trait.

Integrity also helps leaders build trust and stronger relationships with customers and partners, which can result in commercial improvements.

7. Decision-Making

The ability to make good decisions that don’t negatively effect businesses, teams, stakeholders and projects is a fundamental leadership quality.

The decisions that leaders are faced with vary significantly, ranging from whether to fire an employee to whether to accept terms of a business deal.

Of course, the best leaders don’t always get such decisions right.

But they utilise emotional intelligence, take time to explore various options and find the right balance between emotion and logic to ensure they get decisions right much more often than they get them wrong.

8. Problem-Solving

Leaders in all professions and industries encounter problems. The ability to provide swift resolutions to these problems often defines great leaders.

Good leaders are able to assess problems logically, evaluate the most effective course of action and implement solutions in a timely manner.

9. Coaching and Mentoring

Great leaders are capable of getting the best out of employees and teams. And one of the ways this is achieved is through coaching and mentoring.

Good coaching and mentoring enable employees to improve their performance levels and expand their skillsets. They can then provide a more effective service to their employers. Ultimately, effective coaching and mentoring improves business performance.

According to Human Capital Institute, 51% of companies with a strong coaching culture generate higher revenue than their competition.

10. Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a common skill that many of the world's best leaders utilise to innovate and exceed expectations.

Strategic thinking, in simple terms, is the thought process used to provide a greater platform for success. For leaders, strategic thinking allows them to assess business strategies, problems and plans in the most logical, beneficial manner.


How to Obtain and Improve Leadership Skills

So, we’ve covered the most important leadership skills. But how do you obtain and develop these skills?

There are many ways to develop and improve your leadership skills. Whether you’re yet to secure your first leadership role or you’re a seasoned executive, there are a multitude of steps you can take to obtain and enhance your skills.

Leadership Courses

Undertaking leadership courses and programmes can be one of the best ways to develop your leadership skills.

Some companies offer internal leadership training programmes. These programmes are designed to develop the next generation of leaders by equipping them with the necessary skills.

If your employer doesn’t offer internal leadership programmes, do some online research to identify reputable programmes that can help you build your leadership skill set.

Mentorship

Undertaking mentorship from a seasoned leader is another great way of obtaining and improving your leadership skills. Some of the best leaders put their success down to mentors who showed them the ropes and helped them acquire key skills.

How do you go about finding a mentor?

Networking and establishing new professional relationships are among the most common ways of finding a mentor. You may also want to consider building connections with leaders on LinkedIn and through other professional social networks.

There are also numerous online mentorship networks out there, specialising in connecting mentors with mentees.

Books, Podcasts and Other Resources

Reading leadership books can be a superb way of obtaining insight into the minds of great leaders.

Check out our list of the best career books, which features a number of great books on leadership.

Podcasts can also be highly beneficial when it comes to sharpening your leadership skills. There is an abundance of fantastic leadership podcasts to choose from, many of which provide direct training in leadership.

For example, the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast covers all aspects of leadership and even offers leadership coaching.

Consider exploring other leadership resources, such as conferences, seminars and YouTube videos to gain insight, build connections and improve your leadership skills.

Actively Seek Leadership Roles

If you’ve got no leadership experience, one of the best ways to develop leadership skills is to assume positions of responsibility. Make yourself available for such positions at work and be prepared to step up.

Sometimes, the most effective way to obtain leadership skills is through hands-on experience.

Leadership Styles

While most leaders make use of the key skills we have highlighted in this guide on a daily basis, there are various different leadership styles that they employ to achieve positive outcomes.

The five main leadership styles are the authoritative leadership style, the transformational leadership style, the transactional leadership style, the laissez-faire leadership style and the democratic leadership style.

For information and guidance on these styles and how to use them, view our guide to the five leadership styles.


We hope you’ve found this guide to leadership skills helpful. To learn how to convey your leadership skills when pursuing jobs, view our guide to demonstrating leadership skills on your CV.

Or take a look at our ultimate guide to writing a CV, which includes 27 CV samples.


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