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11 essential leadership skills for workplace success

Last updated

16 November 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Warren Jonas ACC

An organization is only as strong as its leaders. They hold the company together, help it grow, and directly affect the bottom line. If their skills are lacking, the business will suffer. 

While natural leaders exist, they still need help honing their leadership skills. And those who don’t feel like natural leaders can achieve excellent results by studying management.

Let's look at leadership skills and how to make them work for your business.

What are leadership skills?

"If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition." — Patrick Lencioni

Leadership skills are abilities, strengths, and powers that people leverage to: 

  • Guide employees

  • Drive motivation

  • Foster engagement

  • Identify improvements

  • Achieve goals faster

Each leader can possess different skills to meet company objectives and keep employees satisfied.

Besides helping employees achieve company goals, leadership skills allow management to gather valuable information to make educated decisions and drive the business forward. 

From decision-making to empathy, these skills can make a world of difference. During crises, leadership skills can keep the company afloat. Whether there’s an economic downturn or a strong competitor, honing these skills is integral to business success.

Examples of leadership skills

Numerous approaches to leadership exist. However, most leaders must possess essential leadership skills, including:

1. Communication

Leaders need to know how to communicate to:

  • Build trust: Leaders who communicate honestly and transparently make it easy for employees to trust their decisions, follow their guidance, and share concerns.

  • Improve collaboration: Communicating effectively allows leaders to create strong communication channels, driving inspiration and encouraging new perspectives.

  • Resolve conflicts: When conflicts arise, a leader with excellent communication skills can listen to different viewpoints and find solutions that work for everyone involved.

Communication skills help leaders build strong relationships with their team members and stakeholders

Active listening, empathy, and responsiveness enable leaders to foster a supportive work environment. This increases productivity and boosts workplace morale.

2. Decisiveness

Leaders should know exactly how and when to make complex decisions, which requires decisiveness. This skill can also help with:

  • Building confidence: The ability to make decisions instills confidence and demonstrates competence, encouraging the team to follow the leader's direction.

  • Crisis management: In a crisis, decision-making can achieve quick resolutions without losing trust or undermining authority.

  • Accountability: Decisive leaders take ownership of decisions and their consequences, ensuring a culture of responsibility across the board.

  • Momentum: Decisiveness allows the team to maintain momentum, avoid stagnation, and focus on company goals.

In a rapidly changing environment, decisiveness allows leaders to respond quickly. Decisive leaders can assess new information and make necessary changes without hesitation.

3. Empathy

An excellent leader doesn't just work toward company goals. They know how to respond to their team's needs and respect these desires.

Empathic leaders listen without judgment, as they have high emotional intelligence. Instead of taking immediate action or ignoring the team member's voice, they step back from emotions and see the situation as it is.

Besides being the Chief Executive Officer, a CEO often becomes Chief Empathy Officer. Top-down empathy helps navigate business complexities and keeps the team together. It builds trust and fosters stronger relationships between team members. 

4. Time management and delegation

Leaders with top-notch time management skills easily streamline their team’s work process, simultaneously managing everyone’s time. They also gain insight into business operations and find opportunities for improvement. 

Proper time management improves the leader's ability to invest time and effort in the team, driving engagement. Employees achieve faster and more visible results.

Studies show that over 50% of employees spend their time on low-value tasks. A strong leader with excellent time-management skills can handle this type of issue to drive productivity.

Successful time management comes with good delegation. When a leader assigns revenue-generating tasks to people who can succeed with them, they streamline operations. They also build trust, increase engagement, and support retention. 

5. Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind employee engagement and satisfaction. Leaders who can motivate their team achieve key goals, including higher productivity and retention rates.

Today, nearly 80% of employees are disengaged for many reasons. One of them is the leader's inability to motivate. A leader should know precisely how to encourage team members to get involved in the work process. This requires a combination of communication, empathy, and relationship-building skills.

Motivated employees don't just work harder. They become brand ambassadors who tend to attract new talent and stay with the company for many years.

6. Creativity

Organizations that embrace creativity stand out from the crowd. Creative leaders identify new market opportunities, aid in new product development, and help employees drive innovation.

Leaders who possess this skill encourage team members to solve problems creatively. They study diverse perspectives and make them work to achieve company goals. Leveraging and supporting creativity enables leaders to improve the decision-making process.

Creativity encourages leaders to take calculated risks and embrace experimentation. These leaders are willing to try new approaches, test novel ideas, and learn from failures. This fosters a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, keeping the company on top.

7. Negotiations

The ability to negotiate assists a leader through various processes. From resolving team conflicts to discussing terms with stakeholders, a skilled negotiator can achieve many vital goals.

Great negotiation skills improve the company's bottom line by building internal and external relationships. They also allow leaders to determine the most effective course of action when faced with demands from two sides.

Negotiation skills help leaders understand employees and satisfy their interests while driving the organization forward.

8. Adaptability

Top leaders should have flexibility and resilience to thrive in a dynamic environment. Adapting to situations is critical, and that’s where quick thinking and excellent problem-solving skills come in.

The ability to adjust quickly allows leaders to make quick decisions, take calculated risks, and reduce employee downtime. As internal and external conditions change, a leader should be able to move on while keeping the organization's goals and employee needs in mind.

9. Critical thinking

In leadership, critical thinking is the ability to analyze and evaluate the available information to make a decision. Leaders face these situations all the time. From making hiring choices to meeting changing deadlines, they must analyze facts even with scarce information.

A critically thinking leader can connect the dots and find solutions in a fast-paced, stressful environment when their team requires precise instructions. They can see the bigger picture faster than anyone and use it to make the most of the situation.

10. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is the leader's ability to understand their emotions, beliefs, and values. While many blindly follow these aspects, leaders understand what drives their behavior. 

Evaluating their feelings and understanding their weak points encourages them to become the best version of themselves. They bring that version to work every day to lead by example. 

These leaders are more open to learning about employees' individuality. Supporting their needs and well-being leads to more satisfied employees, driving productivity and reducing churn. 

11. Vision

Good leaders have the right leadership skills to support the company's vision and bring it to life. Great leaders create this vision.

One of the most valuable leadership skills is determining the direction a business can take to thrive. Besides boosting productivity and guiding employees, vision is the power behind the company's success.

A leader with vision can turn an organization into a dominant player and make it an employer of choice for top talent.

How to improve leadership skills

Honing leadership skills is a continuous process. Without constant learning and practice, it's easy to start making unfortunate mistakes or lose employee trust. 

To improve your leadership skills, you can:

Request regular feedback

Use an anonymous questionnaire or survey to discover how your team members really feel about your leadership. 

Incorporate their feedback into a formal career development plan (CDP) where you store goals and objectives for your leadership development. You can use this data to adjust your leadership style to acquire new skills.

Invest in personal development

A great leader is always learning. From attending seminars to taking online courses and seeking mentorship, you must constantly sharpen your skills. Staying up to date with industry trends and best leadership practices allows you to become a better leader.

Work on self-awareness

When you develop self-awareness, you can never do enough. Continue reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and understand your values, beliefs, and leadership style. Self-awareness means you can leverage your strengths and address areas for improvement.

Online personality tests can help you get to know yourself better and uncover your strengths and weaknesses.

Practice communication

Leaders with excellent communication capabilities often lack time to practice them. To improve your leadership skills, you have to find time to actively listen to your employees and adapt your communication style to different audiences. 

Consider seeking opportunities to practice public speaking to broaden your skillset.

Delegate and empower

Successful leaders use their skills to achieve company goals while empowering their teams. They know how to delegate tasks and responsibilities to team members without making errors or causing burnout.

Trust your team—provide them with the autonomy to make decisions. Support their growth and offer constructive feedback regularly.

Take on leadership opportunities

Seek out leadership opportunities within your organization. This could involve taking on additional responsibilities to develop and showcase your skills.

Remember that leadership skills take time and practice to develop. Be patient with yourself and embrace a growth mindset. Never miss new opportunities to learn, reflect, and improve as a leader.

Leverage leadership skills to power business growth

Leadership skills are a major building block of a successful business. When you put strong leaders at the helm, the company gains a powerful resource for staying ahead of the competition.

Top leaders can motivate employees, build strong relationships, achieve the toughest development goals, and more. 

However, becoming the perfect leader is only half the job. The other half is honing and supporting leadership skills so they can continue contributing to the company's success.

FAQs

What is the most important leadership skill?

When it comes to leadership skills, it’s not about one top skill. It’s about a combination of skills that may be different for each leader. The key to success is continuously honing these skills. 

Why is leadership important?

Leaders guide the team to achieve company goals. They use inspiration and motivation to help employees achieve their full potential and contribute to the organization's bottom line. 

Leaders keep the business running by achieving the operational requirements and building plans to improve the company’s bottom line. 

How can leadership lead to success?

Leadership can lead to success by giving team members guidance, support, and resources to achieve company goals.

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