The Most Important Leadership Skills For 2020

By Chris Kolmar - Sep. 18, 2020

People have examined what qualities make great leaders for the entirety of society’s existence. Individuals in leadership roles are crucial to success. Whether you’re supervising a Fortune 500 company, a single project, or a fast-food chain.

Leadership styles can differ while still being successful. However, there are skills that good leaders display across the board, and you can improve on to be more successful in the workplace.

What are Leadership Skills?

Key leadership skills are often soft-skills. Personality characteristics, behaviors, and abilities that contribute to being a strong, effective leader. These aren’t qualities that are 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.

List of Leadership Skills Great Leaders Have

  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.

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    Examples of Communication Skills:

    • Active Listening

    • Strong Presentation

    • Negotiation Skills

    • Honesty

    • Confidence

    • Emotional-Intelligence

  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

    • Emotion 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 Exactly Is A Leader?

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.

Leaders are:

  • Goal-oriented

  • Charismatic

  • Decisive

  • Adaptable

  • Fair

  • Honest

How Can You Build 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 You Can 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 Skills

Once you’re confident in some of your leadership skills, you should list them on your resume for the consideration of future employers.

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.

When listing leadership skills on your resume, try to be as specific as possible. Instead of listing, “strategic thinking” as a skill, write “lead a strategic marketing campaign that improved sales by 2%”.

Create an accurate picture of you as a leader and accentuate your skills.

Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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