Leadership skills are the strengths and abilities individuals demonstrate to manage and motivate others toward achieving organizational goals.
- Understanding leadership skills
- Desirable leadership soft skills
- Other important leadership skills
- Key takeaways:
- Leadership Glossary
Understanding leadership skills
Strong leadership skills are vital to success, helping the organization deliver projects, encourage initiatives, and empower others through a common purpose or culture. What’s more, these skills are as important to a low-level team leader as they are to a senior executive.
Since most leaders are required to constantly interact with subordinates, good communication is a fundamental aspect of good leadership. However, a survey of 1,000 employees in 2015 found 91% cited poor communication as the cause of ineffective leadership. Many lamented that leadership failed to recognize employee achievements and gave unclear instructions. Worse still, some believed their superiors simply refused to talk to them to address concerns.
Despite the knowledge that good communication boosts employee morale and productivity, the data from the survey indicated the vast majority of leaders are not engaging with their subordinates at critical times.
Embodying leadership skills appears simple on paper. However, many of the attributes comprising an effective leader are soft skills that can’t be demonstrated through paperwork, referrals, or qualifications alone. In the next sections, we will take a look at some of these soft skills and other desirable leadership traits in more detail.
Desirable leadership soft skills
Soft skills are vital in leadership because they dictate whether a leader will be able to motivate and inspire others to achieve organizational goals.
Here are some of the ways successful leaders accomplish this:
- Communication skills – as we noted earlier, good communication is non-negotiable. Great leaders are active listeners who are open to the feedback or differing perspectives of those below them. Sound communication skills also mean choosing the right discussion techniques, interpreting and displaying the right body language, and corresponding clearly through the written word.
- Interpersonal skills – navigating complex social interactions is also key. A leader must be able to read the emotional temperature of the room and respond in a way that is sensitive to the thoughts, ideas, or feelings of others. This is emotional intelligence at work – one of the most important soft leadership skills.
- Teamwork skills – the most successful leaders value the contributions of a team. They collaborate and share ideas toward a common cause.
- Problem-solving skills – leaders who can find creative solutions to workplace problems instill subordinates with a sense of confidence. At the organizational level, problem-solving leaders mitigate risk and implement new strategies with fewer complications.
- Conflict resolution – conflict is inevitable in the workplace, so knowing how to deal with it is paramount. Successful leaders remain impartial and call meetings where each individual is encouraged to provide their point of view. Importantly, these leaders use their emotional intelligence to avoid being influenced by the heightened emotional state conflict often causes.
Other important leadership skills
To expand on this point, consider the following skills which are valuable and highly desired by organizations:
- Decisiveness – effective leaders must be able to make smart decisions quickly with the information at hand – even if the information is incomplete or inadequate. For most individuals, this is a skill that takes years to develop.
- Strategic thinking – successful leaders are also “big picture” thinkers. They have a vision for where they want to go and how to get there. They are not distracted by trivial issues or minor details, with every decision judged on whether it helps the organization realize its vision. Strategic thinking is also supported by evidence, such as a thorough understanding of the needs of the target audience.
- Planning and delivery – the most proficient leaders also recognize the importance of planning and implementation. Indeed, the best vision in the world is worthless without a plan to make it a reality. This is underpinned by a strong understanding of project management, project planning, and risk management.
- Change management through innovation – effective change management requires a leader to create and implement a compelling and innovative vision. This reduces the likelihood employees will become bored and revert to previous ways of operating.
- Leadership skills describe the strengths and abilities individuals require to manage and motivate others toward achieving organizational goals.
- Good communication is arguably the single most important leadership skill, but data suggests a lack of communication between employees and their superiors is commonplace.
- Leadership skills encompass soft skills such as active listening, emotional intelligence, teamwork, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. On a more practical level, successful leaders act decisively and think strategically. They can also plan and implement their vision and manage the company through change.
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