For many years, people have been asking whether leaders are born or made. Some studies have concluded that while there are elements of leadership that come inherited from genetics, most of them are learnable through practice.
You can indeed be born with inherent leadership abilities. However, if you aren’t one of the lucky few, it doesn’t mean your chances of becoming a leader are over. All you need to do is learn and practice the skills that make a great leader.
Essential Leadership Skills to Study
This post will take you through 21 essential skills that make a leader. The more of them you have, the better a leader you can become. We will also discuss why leadership skills are necessary, who needs them, and how to learn and improve them.
Why Are Leadership Skills So Important?
Leadership skills are not only beneficial to the individual who possesses them. They are also valuable to those under the management of that person and the organization or department they lead. Let’s explore a few reasons why leadership skills are essential:
- Enables you to get the best out of your team
Having leadership skills allows you to empower and motivate your team to accomplish their goals. It enables you, the leader, to know the capabilities of each team member and thus assign tasks based on their strengths and weaknesses. Doing this ensures every person performs the roles they are good at, which improves employee engagement.
- Achieve overall success
Good leadership is essential for accomplishing goals and achieving success in an organization, regardless of the size. When you possess leadership skills, you can make intelligent decisions based on what’s best for your team and organization. You’ll also inspire and steer your team towards achieving their goals.
- Good team cohesion
Having good leadership skills enables you to build relationships with your team. It helps create an environment of trust, openness, and collaboration, which are all crucial ingredients for good team cohesion.
Another benefit of enhancing leadership skills is your team communicates better. They trust each other and thus can openly and confidently discuss any issues that arise in the department or organization. Open communication is one of the essential elements of team collaboration. With good leadership, every member feels a part of the team and feels the responsibility to contribute to the organization’s success.
- Increases productivity and performance
One of the overall benefits of possessing leadership skills is increased performance at the individual and organizational levels. Since team members are motivated and inspired to work, they give their best in whatever roles they perform. The efforts of each team member boost the productivity and performance of the whole organization. Having good leadership skills also helps create a good work environment, which results in better performance.
Who Needs Leadership Skills?
Leadership skills aren’t just reserved for corporate managers and official government officers. Anyone tasked with achieving a goal or leading a team, big or small, needs these skills. That person can be a sports coach, gym instructor, or team captain. Even a company manager, priest, teacher, or church leader will find them helpful. As long as other people rely on you to lead them, you will benefit from having leadership skills.
Essential Leadership Skills
Let’s now look at the essential skills that make a good leader. You may possess some naturally, while others may require some work to pick up. Whichever the case, all these skills are learnable. Let’s go over them one by one.
1. Know How to Be Supportive
Being supportive is something important in our personal lives and the workplace. It’s a skill that every leader should aspire to possess. If you want to be a good leader or manager, you need to support your team in achieving their goals and performing their roles to the best of their abilities.
Don’t simply assign tasks and wait for results. Empower your team to do better work. Grant them the tools they need, and guide and mentor them along the way.
2. Have and Show Empathy
Empathy is another essential skill that makes a good leader. It allows you to understand your team’s needs, motivations, and perceptions. Empathy also enables you to sympathize with your team’s existing circumstances and thus provide the necessary support.
For example, assume one of your employees is struggling at work. It’s only through empathy that you can ease their struggle and help them excel.
3. Effective Communication
Effective communication is another essential skill in a leader. It should be one of the first ones to develop. Through effective communication, you can share your thoughts and ideas more clearly with the team.
As a leader, strive to improve your communication skills in one-on-one conversations and when addressing people in a group. You also need to enhance your communication via all channels, whether through phone, email, or social media.
4. Strong Decision-Making Skills
Another leadership skill you need as a leader is the ability to make good decisions. It’s essential to make rational and well-thought-out decisions.
Remember that the decisions you make don’t just affect you. They influence your team members and the entire organization. They have an impact on the achievement of the company’s or department’s goals.
5. Plan Effectively
Planning is how you organize tasks to ensure everything works seamlessly. It’s how you assemble every detail to ensure you achieve collective goals. Planning helps you assign tasks, set goals and targets, and allocate the necessary tools and resources. It creates a path for accomplishing your aspirations. Strive to become a good planner if you want to be an effective leader.
As a leader, you will most likely be managing a team consisting of a few people. Your aim should be to get everyone to collaborate. To do this, you need to be willing to band together, too. Being collaborative starts with involving your team members, whether in decision-making, problem-solving or performing a task. It means creating a culture where everyone contributes their strengths and capabilities.
No matter how good and motivated you are, you can’t perform every task alone. Be willing to delegate responsibilities to your team. By doing so, you show your staff members that you trust them to perform their roles. You also free up your time and schedule to work on more essential matters.
Delegating also shows that your focus is on the collective achievement of success rather than personal accomplishments. Therefore, it’s a skill worth developing as a leader.
Leaders need to be willing to accept responsibility for their team’s failures. They shouldn’t shift blame or point fingers when a mistake occurs. Instead, they should accept the mistake as a unit, try and find the root cause, and take corrective measures. Learning to take responsibility is a big part of being an effective leader.
Flexibility is a trait that’s gradually becoming more and more crucial in today’s work environment. With employees working remotely and new technologies emerging, leaders ought to be flexible enough to modify their leadership style accordingly. They should be willing to try out new approaches to performing tasks and solving problems in the workplace. Doing so will enable the leader to adapt easily and quickly to changing times.
Self-development refers to taking the initiative to better oneself. It can be anything from taking up a new skill to changing bad habits to working on weaknesses. Self-development is an essential leadership skill because it allows you to become a better leader and human being.
11. Team Development
In the same way, taking the initiative to develop yourself is important, focusing on team development is also crucial. Help your team members to learn new skills and become better colleagues. Support them as they try to achieve their career goals.
Instead of micromanaging, allow your team members to grow in their roles. Grant them the autonomy to make decisions pertaining to their jobs and voice their opinions.
12. Strategic Thinking
Another skill worth having as a leader is the ability to think strategically. Strategic thinking involves planning and seeing the big picture. It includes setting targets and creating a roadmap to accomplish a long-term goal or solve a problem. With this skill, you are better able to realize the vision and mission of your organization.
13. Ethical Practice
As a leader in your organization, you should commit to high moral and ethical standards. Being ethical means treating your employees the same way you’d want them to treat you. It means making decisions and judgments that don’t go against your or your organization’s values. Strive to be a good role model to your team members, and they will respect and follow you.
In today’s complex business world, problem-solving ranks as one of the most crucial skills to have as a leader. Good leaders can identify the root cause of a problem. They invest time to study the nature and scope of a problem and analyze its effects. They then propose viable solutions to deal with it and set measures to ensure it does not re-occur.
If you possess the skill of solving problems, you will be better able to manage the challenges of the workplace.
If you want your team members to join your cause, you need to get them to trust you. They need to feel comfortable approaching you if they have any questions, comments, or suggestions. Have integrity and strive to be open and honest about issues with your team. Don’t tell them to act a certain way, then turn around and do the opposite. Lead them by example.
16. Developing a Positive Attitude
Having a positive attitude goes a long way to helping you overcome challenges in the workplace. It helps create a positive and healthy work environment where everyone is happy and optimistic about the future. Strive to develop this leadership skill to help you better tackle the problems that arise at work. It’s easier to accomplish goals when you are optimistic about life rather than pessimistic.
17. Agility and Adaptability
Good leaders are willing to adapt to changes in the workplace even though it means getting out of their comfort zone. Being agile and adaptable will enable you to move swiftly with shifts in your organization or industry. It will give you a competitive edge and thus is a skill worth having.
18. Innovation and Creativity
To succeed and thrive, you, as a leader, need to harness the skills of innovation and creativity. By being innovative, you get to stay ahead of the competition. As you find new ways to improve your products and processes, inspire your team to get creative as well. Through innovation and creativity, you can devise ideas to solve problems and accomplish goals at work.
19. Employee Motivation
The ability to inspire and motivate a team is another skill that great leaders have. Learn how to motivate your workforce, both directly and indirectly. Looking for ways to inspire your team to perform their tasks better? You can create a work environment where they enjoy working, appreciate the work they do, and support them whenever necessary.
20. Conflict Management
Conflict management is a crucial leadership skill. It’s one everyone should possess. Leaders who possess conflict management skills can resolve and mitigate conflicts before they disrupt productivity. They can get the clashing members or departments to let go of their differences and work together.
Leaders with good negotiation skills are an asset in any organization. They can get together with parties, internal or external, and coordinate a mutually desired outcome. Most companies and governments value a leader who can mediate and get the most out of an agreement. If you are not well-versed with this skill, you may want to add it to your leadership catalog.
What Are the Best Ways to Learn Leadership Skills?
As mentioned above, you may possess some of these leadership skills. The question is, how can you learn those you are not good at? Here are a few tips to help you develop leadership skills.
- Focus on one skill at a time
It’s better to work on one leadership skill after another rather than all at once. Once you learn a skill, move on to the next.
- Learn more about the skill
Before developing a leadership skill, take some time to research what it entails and how to master it. Don’t just develop skills for the sake of it.
Consider every day an opportunity to practice a leadership skill. Try not to shy away from opportunities that call for that skill. For example, if a dispute arises in the workplace, you shouldn’t ignore it or let it slide just because you have not yet mastered conflict management.
You now know the 21 essential skills you should have as a leader. Strive to become a better one in your department or organization. Become a leader who focuses more on the collective success of their team than on their own.
Take a few minutes to reflect on the essential skills you possess and those you need to develop. Once you identify the ones you lack, focus on learning them one by one. The more leadership skills you possess, the better a leader you become.
Below you’ll find a few resources that may come in handy to expand your knowledge. The links are dynamic, so you’ll always have the latest and most popular information at your end.
Reading a book takes time, effort, and discipline. For me anyway. I’m more of an audiobook listener. I like to listen as I’m driving or performing mundane tasks.
One thing worth mentioning about books is you don’t have to read the book from cover to cover; instead, you can flip through the table of contents and go directly to the chapter containing the information you’re interested in.
Leadership programs are another way to improve your leadership skills. There are many training programs on the market. It’s worth your while to take a look and see which appeal to you. If you find one that catches your eye, search for reviews on that program to see what others have experienced. You can also research the author to see credentials and overview their background.
I like using Google’s News site because you can type in your keyword and get a list of topics covered by the media. If the topic has media coverage, it’s worth looking into. It’s also worth noting that you gain a new perspective when looking at your topic from the media’s point of view. For example, see Google’s news search results related to leadership skills.
YouTube is an excellent resource where you’ll find videos on virtually every topic. One of the things I really like about YouTube is that you’ll get a list of related topics when you’re watching a video. You may not have considered some of those topics, and they are worth looking into. So, the next time you’re watching a video on YouTube, keep an eye out for related videos that show up on the screen to expand your knowledge.