15 Important Leadership Skills For The Workplace (Definitions and Examples)

By Sky Ariella - Sep. 7, 2021
Skills Based Articles

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People have examined what qualities make great leaders for all of human existence. Individuals in leadership roles are crucial to success, whether they’re running a Fortune 500 company, a single project, or a fast-food franchise.

While no single leadership style is superior to others, there are certain skills that good leaders display across the board. Let’s take a look at the most fundamental skills for strong leadership, ways to build your own skill set, and methods for showcasing your leadership accomplishments during a job search.

What Are Leadership Skills?

Leadership skills are abilities that allow you to plan strategies, organize individuals, delegate responsibilities, motivate action, and build rapport with those you work alongside.

Key leadership skills are often soft skills. In contrast to hard skills, which are taught abilities that are job- or field-specific, soft skills relate to your interpersonal attributes and skill at making a work process run smoothly.

There are many personality characteristics, behaviors, and abilities that contribute to strong, effective leadership. These qualities aren’t reserved for high-ranking CEOs or business managers. Compelling leadership characteristics can be just as valuable in associates, job applicants, and students.

Demonstrating leadership skills early on can help propel your career into a position with more power in the future.

15 Types of Leadership Skills

  1. Communication. Having strong communication skills can make life a lot easier. This goes doubly for your professional life, and triply in a leadership role.

    When leading a team, good communication means not only clearly conveying your thoughts and plans for a project, but also practicing active listening and consideration for other’s input.

    Active listening includes:

    • Building trust

    • Expressing care

    • Verbal and Nonverbal confirmations of understanding

    • Proposing questions for clarification

    A workspace with open communication between supervisors and staff is more comfortable for everyone involved. That is established by the project leader. A team that works in harmony produces better work more productively, with fewer issues.

    Examples of communication skills:

  2. Motivation. A great leader should be able to inspire their team to do their best work. Motivation encourages working hard until you reach the finish line. To effectively motivate a team, you must be just as driven to complete the goal. Leaders are role models for how employees are expected to behave.

    Working under the supervision of someone who doesn’t care about the job is discouraging. It makes the effort feel unimportant and boring. Being motivated and passing that onto your team is very important in driving the success of an organization or project.

    Some examples of Team Motivational Techniques include:

    • Conversing with team members individually and regularly

    • Discussing their personal motivations

    • Instilling appropriate competition

    • Appreciating and praising employees for their accomplishments

  3. Delegating. Delegation refers to a lot of your daily duties in management and leadership positions. It refers to how you assign tasks and projects to team members and supervise them productively.

    Delegation can be difficult for a lot of business owners because it means putting a great deal of trust into your employees. You’re putting a task in their hands on the promise that’s they’ll return with satisfactory work. Nobody is a one-person show when it comes to success. Having good delegation skills is imperative for building long-term.

    Examples of effective delegating include:

    • Providing necessary resources

    • Accepting feedback

    • Confidence in your team

    • People Management

  4. Positivity. Whether you’re leading a classroom, business, or fundraiser, your energy sets the tone for the people following you.

    As a leader, you’re cultivating the attitude you want your team to have, and you more than likely want happy employees. Maintaining an optimistic outlook motivates your staff and increases productivity.

    Positivity involves:

    • Respect

    • Compassion

    • Emotion regulation

    • Self-awareness

    • Conflict management

    • Earned praise

    • Rapport

  5. Trustworthiness. We’ve all worked for a boss whose skeeved us out. We got our paycheck on time, and never had any major problems at work. But, there was just something about them. You didn’t trust them, and that always left you working cautiously.

    This makes for an awful work environment and isn’t constructive. Employees and employers need to know that you have their best interests in mind. People want to work with supervisors they can put their confidence in. Without trust, a team can never be led to its full capacity.

  6. Creativity. Creativity is a powerful skill in any position, but especially when managing a team. Usually, leaders with skills in creativity allow for a workspace that inspires an open exchange of new ideas. Creative leadership can create innovation and improve work function by breaking away from traditional ideas and guidelines.

    Creative thinking involves:

    • Critical thinking skills

    • Keen Observation

    • Strong problem-solving

    • Listening skills

    • Analysis

    • Adaptability

  7. Feedback. Receiving constructive criticism and positive feedback helps employees to understand the things they’re doing well and the parts of their job they could improve on.

    Being able to supportively construe feedback in an organized way as a leader is important in helping your team meet their goals successfully. This means always letting your team know when they’ve done an excellent job, in addition to offering suggestions for ways they could do better. Feedback should be given constructively and professionally, with a goal in mind.

    Leaders give effective feedback by:

    • Being Specific

    • Keeping an open discussion

    • Being honest

    • Listening

    • Giving it discretely

    • Being neutral

    • Following up later

  8. Responsibility. As the head of a project or company, you are quite literally the person holding the most responsibility. Being an ethical leader means taking this responsibility seriously.

    Being a responsible leader includes:

    • Making decisions that positively impact the organization and its employees

    • Establishing open and honest communication within the team

    • Acknowledgment of mistakes

    • Providing a safe work environment

  9. Commitment. Inspirational leadership needs a commitment to a goal. You’re never going to receive staff member’s best work if they’re not committed to their job, and that starts with you as a leader. Being committed to your team, and inspiring commitment in them is a powerful leadership skill.

    Ways to establish employee commitment include:

    • Offering praise for a job well done

    • Being honest

    • Setting reasonable expectations

    • Fostering a respectful work environment

    • Supplying clear plans and strategies to work from

  10. Flexibility. Flexibility is a beneficial skill for anyone in the workforce to have, but it’s crucial when it comes to leadership abilities.

    Life is unpredictable. Being able to control your emotions and change your plan of attack is valuable. Having the capability to manage the unexpected with new courses of action and solutions can have an enormously positive impact on a team and reflect well on your skills as a leader.

    Traits of flexible leaders include:

    • Time management

    • Planning skills

    • Patience

    • Emotional regulation

    • Critical thinking skills

    • Open-mindedness

  11. Strategic thinking. A strategically thinking leader is detrimental to any company running properly and productively.

    Being strategic means:

    • Defining where you want to go

    • Developing the best plan for how to get there

    • Putting a plan into action

    • Evaluating the outcome

    The key to strategic thinking is mastering this process for every project you do. Many leaders may be good at setting expectations for their team or evaluating the outcome of the project, but skip the steps in between.

    Others may jump right into work while neglecting to set up a solid plan. A strategic leader doesn’t rush. They devise a plan, communicate it well to their team, and conduct a thorough analysis after completion.

  12. Planning and delivery skills. Half of the battle with meeting work goals is being organized. This doesn’t mean you keeping your office neat (although, that’s probably a good idea too).

    Think of skills in planning and delivery as a component of strategic thinking. Being an organized leader means setting up clear plans of action and making them happen.

  13. People management. A leader’s relationship with their team is directly influenced by their people management skills. After all, a huge part of a supervisor’s job is managing people. A leader may be motivated and strategic, but if their people management skills are lacking it will show in the results.

    People management skills include:

    • Effective and open minded communication

    • Confidence

    • Empathy

    • Approachability

    • Flexibility

    • Patience

    • Listening skills

    • Strong delegation skills

  14. Change management and innovation. Whether you’re working in a restaurant or a law office, change happens. It’s inevitable. One of the skills involved in effective leadership is being able to manage change and adapt to innovation.

    Employees obviously need a strong leader when things are status quo, but this is even more relevant when unforeseen changes occur in the workplace.

  15. Persuasion and influencing. Leaders need persuasion skills and influence in the workplace in order to bring their visions to fruition.

    This doesn’t mean tricking or lying to your team to get them to do something. Rather, being a persuasive leader means positively changing behaviors or beliefs through effective discussion and connection. Having persuasion skills can be helpful in people management and motivation.

    Effective persuasion and influencing involves:

    • Verbal and non-verbal communication

    • Self-awareness

    • Presentation and speaking skills

    • Collaboration

    • Strategic thinking

    • Likeability

What Makes an Effective Leader?

An effective leader is one who is able to handle the multiple responsibilities of strategizing, delegating, communicating, motivating, evaluating, providing feedback, and remaining flexible enough to change their approach to any of these jobs if its clearly not working.

A leader is a very expansive term with both professional and personal connotations. While there may be leadership dynamics between family and friends, in the workplace a leader sets expectations, provides guidance, and drives their team to a successful outcome. They care about the group they’re representing, the team working under their supervision, and work passionately to further success.

Effective leaders are:

  • Goal-oriented

  • Charismatic

  • Decisive

  • Adaptable

  • Fair

  • Honest

How to Improve Your Leadership Skills

Doing the work to enhance your skills can strengthen your resume and benefit your career.

Leadership skills, much like any other soft-skill, can always be improved upon. All it takes is a little time, effort, and reflection.

Understand what leadership skills come naturally to you. Consider where your weaknesses are and why. Perhaps, you’re very good at delegating and people management. However, you lack flexibility and organization. Maybe, start taking an extra five minutes to consider different ways of doing things, and writing down plans to keep them straight.

Practice working on these skills outside of work too. Once you’re aware of what areas you need to build skills in, you’ll notice opportunities to work on them in your daily life.

Ways to improve your leadership skills:

  • Create more discussion among your team

  • Be open to always learning more

  • Seek feedback and be receptive

  • Collaborate regularly

  • Be passionate about your job

How to Showcase Your Leadership Skills

Once you’re confident in some of your leadership skills, it’s time to make them a part of your job candidate portfolio. There are essentially three ways to highlight your leadership skills during a job search:

  1. On your resume. As a soft skill, listing “leadership skills” under your resume’s skills section isn’t the most effective strategy. A hiring manager or recruiter has no way to assess the truth of that claim, so you’re better off peppering examples of your leadership skills in action throughout your resume.

    For starters, you can include a major leadership accomplishment in your resume summary statement as a way of immediately capturing the reader’s attention and interest. Next, include a few more achievements relating to leadership throughout your work experience section.

    In both your resume summary statement and work experience, try to include numbers when possible. Describing your responsibilities and the results of them in more detail helps a hiring manager understand the context and impact of your specific contributions.

    For example, instead of saying “Managed a team of sales representatives that consistently outperformed other branches,” write something like “Led a team of 12 sales representatives that outperformed the next best branch by 18% over 2020.”

    Finally, your resume’s skills section can include things that relate to leadership skills, like a background in Agile Management or Scrum.

  2. In your cover letter. Your cover letter gives you a chance to bring the dry facts of your resume to life. Leaders need charisma and effective communication, and a cover letter is a great place to show both of these things off.

    Open with a strong story of a successful project you led. Describe the “how” and “why” of your leadership style and preferred tactics. And most importantly, bring in more numbers, just like in your resume. Numbers don’t just provide context; they also draw the eye.

  3. During a job interview. Whether you’re applying for a supervisory position or not, it’s typical for questions about leadership to come up during job interviews. Behavioral interview questions about leadership are particularly common.

    To prepare for these types of questions, practice using the STAR method to organize your answers in short, easy-to-follow narratives that efficiently describe your value. Most of this preparation involves thinking of stories that cover a multitude of leadership experiences.

    An interviewer won’t just want to hear about your greatest successes. Be prepared with stories about failures, mistakes, and, most importantly, what you learned from them.

Even if you aren’t necessarily the boss now, employers look to hire applicants who demonstrate strong leadership skills. Let them know specifically where your strong suits are.

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Author

Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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