What Skills do Leaders Need?

Effective leaders have strong leadership skills and can drive an organisation to future success. An organisation needs to provide training programs to support its leaders in gaining the required leadership competencies.

In Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Leadership Development Study, 71% of organisations acknowledge that their leaders were “not ready to lead their organisations into the future”. This lack of confidence in their talent pool results in organisations having to look externally for talent.

Self-development and Self-awareness

Self-awareness is an essential characteristic of a great leader. Knowing your personality, values, beliefs, needs, habits and emotions, and understanding how these affect your actions and the actions of others will allow you to manage your stress better. It will also help you make better decisions and ultimately lead others to do the same.

One of the pitfalls of leadership is arrogance. Most leaders do not like to admit that there are things that they still need to learn. An excellent quality of a leader is their ability to show their vulnerability. A leader’s vulnerability will be a strength to those around them and position them as “human” and “not perfect”, which no leader is.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence forms part of your self-awareness and is a leadership quality that one can and should develop. Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. Leaders who have high levels of emotional intelligence have self-awareness, social awareness, empathy, strong relationship management skills, effective listening skills and are open to constructive criticism.

Conflict Management

Conflict management is, with no uncertainty, one of the most vital leadership competencies needed. Influential leaders can identify conflict and have foresight on how to resolve it. A leader needs to be rational when faced with confrontation. On average, managers spends a quarter of their time managing conflict. Conflict in business can go beyond the workplace and involve customers, suppliers and competitors.

When a conflict arises, a leader should be able to jump in and resolve or mitigate the conflict before it negatively affects the business. When conflict is dealt with properly, it may even turn out to be positive for your organisation.


Every leader has their individual leadership style. The key to success is being consistent in treating each team member equally. Whether it be in rewarding performance, you want to encourage or giving feedback on actions or behaviour you want to discourage, complete fairness is vital. Everyone should be treated the same, and you need to avoid favouritism.  A leader should be consistent in implementing their chosen management style and leadership values so that their integrity as a leader remains solid.

Team Development and Relationship Building 

Leaders often believe that they do not need to be loved in the workplace. Although this may be true to build a committed and more engaged team, a leader needs to learn the skill of building good working relationships in the workplace.

Good working relationships increase employee engagement and happiness, leading to less absenteeism, better staff retention and better team efficiencies.  

Leaders need to understand that a teams’ development is as essential as their own development.  Some of the most successful leaders are choosing a leadership approach that embraces developing partnerships with employees. This approach involves working together to develop and achieve goals and allows employees to complete their work with more independence and accountability.

Leaders should plan to check in with their team once a week for around 15 minutes. Reviewing priorities, understanding what they are working on, determining if they are feeling overwhelmed or engaged. This process will allow the leader to collect real-time data on their team, ensuring they are focused on the right things at the right time.

Leaders should also plan quarterly meetings with their team to discuss the employee’s interests, goals, and ambitions and then work together to determine the path and resources they need to get there. This will assist leaders in ensuring they can retain talent. 

Some of the best leaders in the world adopt an altruistic approach to leadership, focusing more on developing their team and those around them.

Communication and Presentation Skills 

Influential leaders need to be able to converse with people at every level of an organisation. They should possess excellent presentation skills and have the intellectual capability to interact with a wide variety of stakeholders. They should also develop their ability to persuade and influence others, and these skills should reflect in all aspects in areas of communication. 

Leaders need to speak convincingly to the concerns of varied audiences,  whether they are knowledgeable or unsophisticated, internal or external, friendly or sceptical. This calls for mental agility and stylistic versatility. As part of being excellent communicators, they need to develop their listening skills and must be adept in receiving and synthesising information.

Good communication leads to less conflict, better negotiation outcomes, and solid relationships within the organisation.

Strategic thinking and Agility

In today’s environment, companies must remain agile and be responsive to change. Therefore strategic thinking is vitally important to leaders. Strategic thinkers take a comprehensive, long term approach to problem-solving and decision making that involves objective analysis, thinking ahead, and planning.

Leaders need to think strategically and set the strategic direction for the organisation. Defining a clear vision and ensure everyone understands their role in achieving that vision. Leaders also need to determine the best path to reach outcomes that exceed expectations.  

Leaders must be able to factor in the needs of every part of an organisation, whether they have the knowledge or experience in all aspects of the organisation or not. If they do not understand the organisation as a whole, you will not be able to implement change initiatives to move the organisation forward. Leaders also need to be operationally savvy with high standards of execution.

Adaptability is another important leadership skills as the business environment is continuously changing and now faster than ever. Effective leadership requires adapting to the changes, often pushing a leader outside of their comfort zone. This ability to adapt will ensure that shifts in the industry do not leave their organisations lagging behind and will give their business a competitive edge.

Change Management

Change management typically has less to do with driving radical organisation-wide change than being at ease with constant flux. The ability to implement change management effectively can be an essential differentiator for leaders.

A leader needs the capability to identify opportunities for change and then lead their organisation to execute a way forward. Leaders need to drive transformational change, motivated by a continuous improvement mindset, a sense of constantly upgrading the organisation, building better processes and systems, improving commercial relationships, increasing market share, and developing future leaders.

Decision Making

Leaders are tasked with making decisions all the time, and even when they don’t have all of the necessary information, they still have to make quick, informed decisions. Therefore,  leaders need to ensure their decision-making skills are top-notch. 

Your decisions as a leader will determine your own and probably your organisation’s success. You need to make sure you make sound, rational, and solid decisions regarding critical decisions that affect your organisation on a large scale.

Making an unpopular but necessary decision is probably one of the most challenging tasks as a leader. However, this is part of a leaders role. You, therefore, need to be confident and stand by your decisions to convince the people involved and affected by the process. 


There is a fundamental difference between delegation and abdication. Effective delegation is a hallmark of a good leader, where abdication is not.

Delegation is an opportunity to teach and develop others. Effective delegation will assist you in building the leadership skills of your future leaders. Through delegation, you are essentially mentoring your team members. 

By delegating tasks, you show trust in your team members to do more than expected. More importantly, delegation allows you to focus on more pressing issues.

Although I have only mentioned 10 skills, There are many other leadership skills that you should develop in yourself and your future leaders. 

Sonja Shear believes that leadership Coaching is a process of self-understanding and can help every organisation achieve success.

To learn more about leadership development programmes and coaching, reach out to Coach Sonja Shear today. 

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