05 May The most important Leadership Skills for workplace success
If you are a team leader, manager, CEO, or you own your own business, effective leadership is something you will need to cultivate and constantly work on. Success is rarely guaranteed, but by understanding the most important leadership skills for your workplace, you can improve your chances of achieving that success significantly.
The most important leadership skills
Though there are distinct leadership skills listed in this article, many of these skills bleed into each other, and it is often the case that one cannot be truly developed without simultaneously developing another.
Good communication skills
One of the most important skills a great leader will possess is an ability to effectively communicate, whether it be in person or over a communications platform, such as email or phone. Communication is an essential skill in all areas of leadership, from dealing with the team members working under you to reporting to those above or shareholders. Effective communication requires many other soft skills that this article is going to touch on, such as empathy and patience. A successful leader will need to be able to marshall all of these for relationship building, as well as maintaining the relationships they must maintain as part of their leadership role. This skill is also essential in things like negotiation with vendors and other parties.
Having confidence in your own abilities is certainly one of the key skills an effective leader should have. Perhaps more importantly, it is the confidence of the team members in your leadership that is most important, and that confidence starts at the top. If you are unsure of yourself and second-guessing your decisions, that uncertainty will filter up and down, causing a lack of confidence both from the people you lead and from the people you report to. Of course, there is a fine line between self-confidence and over-confidence. Leadership development should never stop, and the ability to take criticism on board will always be an important aspect of effective leadership.
Nothing great was ever achieved by playing it safe and sitting inside a comfort zone. A good leader will need the vision to take their team and organisation forward, not only thinking ahead but thinking outside of the box to find innovative solutions. That being said, having vision does not necessarily mean you have to come up with innovative ways to change your business yourself. Delegation is one of the effective leadership skills we are going to touch on, but having vision can mean trusting the right people to find new and innovative ways forward. Making effective use of your team is one of the more critical skills of a good manager and leader.
There are, of course, many leadership styles and no hard rules as to which style works best. That being said, having a degree of empathy will help in most cases, particularly in a stressful work environment. When developing management skills, it is all too common to overlook the human element in favour of more leadership-specific skills, such as time management and delegation. Understanding the wants and needs of your team, your clients or customers, and even those you report to will help you better understand them as a whole. You can then leverage this understanding to improve working conditions for your team, improving their performance as a result. Understanding people is a huge part of successfully leading them, especially when it comes to things like conflict resolution, which is another important skill this article will touch on.
An ability to handle responsibility
Being able to handle responsibility is obviously one of the more critical skills needed to be a leader. Everyone is responsible for their own work, of course, but, ultimately, you will be responsible for your team, whether that team is a few people or an entire corporation. Taking responsibility for ensuring everything runs smoothly can often ensure you don’t have to take responsibility for mistakes and failures because it leads to you running your team effectively in the long term. As with many of the skills a leader needs, there is a fine line to walk between actively keeping your team on the right track and micro-managing them. Handling responsibility effectively as a leader is more about putting the right systems in place and hiring the right people for the job rather than leaning over your team member’s shoulders.
An ability to motivate others
Employee motivation is often the difference between a good leader and a great one. Some of the most notable leaders in corporate history are ones who were able to “rally the troops” behind their message or goal. Leadership skills development is an imprecise science and one that often requires an individual to lean into their strengths. It takes a charismatic individual to deliver a rousing keynote, but that is not the only way to motivate. Leadership potential need not be limited by an ability to give good speeches. Solid organisation, a clear goal, and decisive action can be just as effective management and leadership skills when it comes to motivating employees.
While headhunting is always a possibility, a team that has grown and developed together is more likely to perform. A good leader can foster and grow a team by building from potential as well as established talent, but this will require an ability to mentor. Inexperienced employees—or even experienced ones in some cases—often need guidance and validation. The team leader is the natural place to look to for that guidance, but the leader needs to be up to the task of mentoring for this to be effective. Mentoring can also act as a reinforcement of leadership because people will naturally look toward those they learn from as leadership figures.
The larger and more complex an organisation (or anything, for that matter) becomes, the more people it requires to operate. An effective leader will need to accept that they cannot do everything and then use delegation and time managing skills to share the workload. Delegation is about more than just handing tasks off to other people, of course. An effective leader will make sure that the tasks being delegated go to the employees with the most suitable skillsets. As a result, effective delegation requires an ability to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of those working under you. This is a skill that also comes in handy for mentoring since it is easier to mentor someone when you know which direction to guide them and which strengths to play to.
Few people enjoy conflict, but it is an unavoidable part of being a leader. Whether dealing with vendors, clients or employees, conflict will always come up. When it does, an effective leader will need to be able to deal with it, something that will require good communication skills and empathy. Conflict resolution does not always have a happy ending, and there will be times when compromises need to be made. A good leader will find a way to resolve the situation with the minimum of dissatisfaction possible while acknowledging that some dissatisfaction is unavoidable.
Many of the above skills require patience. Whether it be dealing with conflict, mentoring employees, or guiding the company towards a particular goal or vision, patience is critical.
How to develop leadership skills
Self-awareness is an important trait in many aspects of life, and leadership is no exception. The leadership skills examples discussed in this article are all important, but they are essentially useless without the ability to acknowledge the areas where work is needed. As touched on above, being able to take constructive criticism on board plays a significant role here.