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Jan 23, 2020

Approx. 16 min. read

What Are The Top Leadership Skills That Make a Great Leader?

Leadership skills are some of the most in-demand soft skills. So, what does it take to be a great leader in the workplace?

Leadership skills are some of the most in-demand soft skills. So, what does it take to be a great leader in the workplace?

Whether one is a team leader, a project supervisor, or a business executive, all professionals occupying leadership roles are required to possess strong leadership skills.

💡Download the Skillset Map of a Modern IC Department and learn about the most required leadership skills for modern communication practitioners!

It goes without saying that leaders are expected to be great communicators. They run projects, make decisions that have a direct impact on the business’s bottom line and most importantly, they constantly interact with people.

Think about it: most leaders manage a team and no matter how big the team is, leaders need to communicate with each member of the team, whether it’s on a daily or weekly basis.

And the way they communicate with their team has a tremendous impact on the company’s success.

Top Skills You Need to Develop in the Workplace 

top-internal-communications-skills

 

Put differently, developing strong leadership skills plays a critical role in the success of any organization. You can’t build a successful business without having the right talent — including leaders — on board.

Now, the question is: can anyone become a great leader?

If so, how can you get and develop the skills you need to become a great leader, how does the learning process look like?

The thing is, it’s not that simple.

Some agree that some people are born to be great leaders. Others believe that leaders are made.

The truth is, there’s no manual or guide that will give you all the tricks to become a great leader. But what’s for sure is that leadership involves great soft skills.

So, what are the most in-demand leadership skills? Why developing leadership skills is critical in the workplace? What does it take to become a great leader? What do successful leaders do differently?

Let’s dive in!

Leadership Skills: Definition and Examples

What’s the Definition of Leadership Skills?

There is no unique way to describe great leadership skills. Unsurprisingly, you can find different lists describing the leadership skills one should possess to become a great leader in the workplace.

In essence, leadership skills are the abilities people have to lead and deliver projects, encourage initiatives, build a sense of common purpose, and empower others.

Leadership skills also include the abilities people have to steer employees toward the achievement of the business goals, inspire them, drive change, and deliver results.

Read on: 5 Employee Communication Predictions for 2020 (And Beyond)

Keep in mind that not all great leaders possess the same leadership skills since these skills are strongly connected with people’s personality traits and communication abilities. In sum, different people, different leadership skills!

Examples of the Most In-Demand Leadership Skills in the Workplace

There are many different leadership skills required in the workplace, but the most in-demand ones include:

  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • The ability to share clear messages and make complex ideas easy to understand for everyone
  • Strategic thinking skills
  • Creativity
  • The ability to inspire and convince others
  • Flexibility
  • The ability to turn information into action
  • Project planning
  • Active listening
  • The ability to assess employees’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Business storytelling
  • Time management
  • The ability to build trust
  • Strong communication skills
  • Positivity
  • Reliability
  • Management skills
  • The ability to align the employees with the company values and goals
  • A strong leadership vision
  • Recruiting skills
  • Persuasion skills
  • The ability to help employees find meaning at work
  • Strong charisma

Read on: Top 5 Communication Skills and How to Improve Them

What Leaders Are We Talking About?

There are some misconceptions about leadership in the workplace.

By “leaders”, we usually mean employees that occupy supervisory positions in the organization. They are at the top of the hierarchy and they manage teams or even entire business units.

Think about it: when we talk about or read articles about leadership, the first leaders that come to our mind are company founders, business executives, directors, or team leaders.

However, employees — including those that don’t occupy supervisory positions — can potentially become leaders.

Indeed, if employees have what it takes to be a leader — including leadership and management skills — they can inspire, motivate, and also challenge their colleagues.

Kim Turnage, Director, Leadership Consultant at Talent Plus, says: 


Having a measure of autonomy to make decisions in the workplace is a way to both identify leaders and help them develop. In every culture, there are people who do what’s expected of them and not much more. And then there are people who just naturally step forward and take more responsibility, take more initiative. Those are the people who have that real leadership potential”.


But having great — if not exceptional — leadership skills is not enough for employees to become leaders. They need to be inspired and encouraged by their supervisors.

That's the reason why more and more businesses start launching in-house leadership development plans to help employees grow their leadership skills.

Read on: Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices to Focus on in 2020

Leadership Skills — What Does Being a “Great Leader” Mean?

 There are hundreds if not thousands of different ways to describe a "great leader".

Ask communicators, management experts, professors or even business leaders how they would describe a great leader. They’ll all come up with different definitions!

top leadership skills to develop in the workplace

However, most leadership experts agree that great leaders:

  • Translate the company’s vision into reality
  • Believe in their teams
  • Have the ability to motivate and inspire others
  • Know how to connect and engage with employees
  • Have a clear vision and know how to effectively communicate it in the workplace
  • Know how to coach employees so they can develop their skills and improve their performance
  • Recognize others’ achievements
  • Have empathy
  • Translate the company’s vision into reality
  • Have a great understanding of the business’s strategy and know how to communicate it to their teams
  • Enhance dialogues in the workplace
  • Listen to employees
  • Lead by example
  • Know how to create unity in the workplace
  • Encourage open and transparent communication 
  • Are change drivers — they encourage creativity and innovation in the workplace
  • Include employees in decision making, they effectively delegate
  • Make employees’ well-being and safety one of their top priorities
  • Last but not least: great leaders don’t fail. They learn.

Leadership skills — including communication skills — are some of the most important skills leaders are expected to have.

Read on: Top 15 Employee Motivation Tips and Benefits

But we’re not there yet: a recent Interact-Harris Poll found that 91% of the surveyed employees think their managers are not good communicators.

So, what does that mean for your organization if you don’t have the “right leaders” on board?

How Does Developing Strong Leadership Skills Impact the Business’s Bottom Line?

Great leaders have a direct impact on their team' success and ability to deliver results.

And here’s why: the way leaders communicate in the workplace has a direct impact on employees' motivation, morale, productivity, and ultimately on employee engagement.

Read on: 8 Employee Engagement Statistics You Need to Know in 2020 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Think about it:

  • 37% of employees consider recognition the most important thing a manager or a company could do to help them be more successful at what they do
  • Only 29% of employees are happy with the career advancement opportunities their companies have offered so far now
  • Companies with high-engaged workforce are 21% more profitable
  • But 85% of employees are not engaged at work
  • 1 in 3 professionals cite boredom as their main reason to leave their job
  • 81% of employees feel ready to leave their jobs
  • Overall, disengaged employees cost companies $450-500 billion each year

10 Inspiring Business Leaders with Strong Leadership Skills 

Are great leaders the ones that inspire and motivate their teams? Are they the ones who can make complex ideas easy to understand for everyone? Or are they the ones that encourage employees to develop their creativity?

Maybe great leaders possess all these leadership skills, maybe they don’t. But they all have one thing in common: they know how to attract and grow top talent.

They hire the right employees, inspire them, and support their creativity and professional development. And it all starts with great leadership skills!

But what does it actually take to be a great leader?

We’ve compiled below inspirational quotes from business leaders that have built or contributed to some of the most successful companies in the world.

They have different ways to describe leadership and success, but they all have at least one thing in common — great leadership skills.

Are you ready to find out what great leadership means to them?

Let’s take a lot at some of their most famous quotes! 💬

Indra Nooyi, Former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo

"As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standard for everybody; however, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future". Think and Grow Rich for Women

Indra Nooyi on the power of strong leadership skills

"Just because you are CEO, don't think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization. I've never forgotten that". Business & Leadership

"The one thing I have learned as a CEO is that leadership at various levels is vastly different. When I was leading a function or a business, there were certain demands and requirements to be a leader. As you move up the organization, the requirements for leading that organization don't grow vertically; they grow exponentially". Fast Company

Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft

“The leader needs to create an environment in which people can analyze the situation and develop a good response” Pondot

“Great organizations demand a high level of commitment by the people involved”. Pondot

"I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions, they will be moved to act. Telegraph

Bill Gates shares his leadership best practicesMary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors 

"If we win the hearts and minds of employees, we're going to have better business success". 100 Great Mindset Changing Ideas

“It’s important to surround yourself with people who will challenge you and tell you when and why you are wrong.” Strategies for Influence

Mary Barra and top leadership skills at General Motors

"As a visionary leader, you should be thinking about more than just the next quarter. You should also be thinking about the next decade, and what your company’s reputation and place in the world will be after 40 quarterly results.” Strategies for Influence

 

Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

“People are fundamental in driving the success of a business. If you treat your staff like the smart and capable adults they are — and give them choice to make informed decisions you will cultivate an environment in which everyone can flourish”. Virgin

“If you look after your staff, they'll look after your customers. It's that simple”. Virgin

Richard Branson on why strong leadership skills are essential in the workplaceHerb Kelleher, Co-Founder of Southwest Airlines

“Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.” Employers Resource

herb kelleher on what being a great leader means

“You must be very patient, very persistent. The world isn’t going to shower gold coins on you just because you have a good idea. You’re going to have to work like crazy to bring that idea to the attention of people.” Employers Resource

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

“The most important thing is, do you have the courage to admit that you're wrong? And do you change? The most important thing to me as a CEO is that we keep the courage”. Fast Company

Tim Cook and leadership skills

“Ultimately, it's on the company leaders to set the tone. Not only the CEO, but the leaders across the company. If you select them so carefully that they then hire the right people, it's a nice self-fulfilling prophecy”. Business Insider

"You're trying to pick people that fit into the culture of a company. You want a very diverse group with very diverse life experiences looking at every problem. But you also want people to buy into the philosophy, not just buy in, but to deeply believe in it." Business Insider

 

"You look for people that are not political. People that are not bureaucrats. People that really don’t care who gets credit. People that can privately celebrate the achievement, but not care if their name is the one in the lights. There are greater reasons to do things". GeekWire

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, Alphabet

“As a leader, a lot of your job is to make those people successful. It’s less about trying to be successful (yourself), and more about making sure you have good people and your work is to remove that barrier, remove roadblocks for them so that they can be successful in what they do. So that’s how I’ve always thought about it.” Think Marketing

Sundar Pichai and the importance of leadership skills

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

 “I view my role more as trying to set up an environment where personalities, creativity, and individuality of all the different employees come our and can shine.” InnovationManagement

tony hsieh and leadership skills in the workplace

“We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build.” Inc.

Howard Schultz, Former Chairman and CEO of Starbucks 

“You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management. That’s the contract.” BusinessInsider

“I think the currency of leadership is transparency. You've got to be truthful. I don't think you should be vulnerable every day, but there are moments where you've got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it”. Forbes

howard schultz on being a successful leader

"People want guidance, not rhetoric. They need to know what the plan of action is, and how it will be implemented. They want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and authority to act on it.” Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Facebook

“People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don’t really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard.” Inc.

“We look for people who are passionate about something. In a way, it almost doesn't matter what you're passionate about”. Inc.

mark zuckerberg on developing leadership skills in the workplaceSo, What Do Successful Leaders Have in Common?

All successful leaders have different ways to define leadership and the top skills it takes to effectively lead a team.

For some of them, great leaders are the ones who inspire their teams while for others, being a great leader means motivating employees and stimulating their creativity.

But they all put communication as a key skill leaders should have. Indeed, it’s through great communication that leaders can motivate, inspire and support their teams.

Ultimately, great leaders are the ones that build high-performing teams, drive change, and impact the business’s bottom line. And guess what? It all starts with strong leadership skills!

Are you interested in learning more about leadership skills in the workplace and how to better engage with your employees? Download the eBook Building a Better Company with Internal Communications where we share our best practices for taking your internal comms to the next level!

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Written by

Valène Jouany

Valène Jouany

Content Marketing Manager

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