Not everyone is born to be a natural leader. Fortunately, this is okay. Leadership skills are attributes that can always be brushed upon. All it takes is some open-mindedness and a calibrated moral compass.
Whether you are taking on a new managerial role, running a business, or looking to hone your abilities, here are the most-needed leadership skills for success in the workplace.
- Choose Your Leadership Style
- Leadership Skills #1 – Reliability
- Leadership Skills #2 – Create Clear Goals
- Leadership Skills #3 – Communication
- Leadership Skills #4 – Build Relationships
- Leadership Skills #5 – Adapt
- Leadership Skills #6 – Admit Mistakes
- Leadership Skills #7 – Care About the Product
- How to Further Build Leadership Skills
Choose Your Leadership Style
If you are taking the time to build a leadership identity, it’s useful to pick a game plan out of the gate.
While adapting to different leadership styles is a key for success (we will get to this later), deciding what archetype you want to fall into can help keep your values targeted. We’re not psychologists here, but we know a thing or two about being a leader.
Ultimately, picking an archetype and deciding your core values can keep you focused when things go awry. You have a rough idea of the plan you need to stick to.
The three main leadership styles are as follows:
- Authoritarian: The most common and stereotypical leader. Here the leader is the most knowledgeable and makes the majority of decisions. This role involves delegating responsibilities and jobs to employees. While this can be effective in creating a hierarchy and culpability, it can diminish employee creativity on projects.
- Participative: The hands-on leader. This archetype revolves around the idea of democracy. The commander works with employees and allows for applicable input. This can create a creative and communicative workspace but make responsibility and correction murky.
- Transformational: This leader can adapt. They create overall goals, enforce actions and work hands-on with the team. This archetype relies heavily on relationship building. While it can be the best employee environment and limit turnover rate, it also requires the highest amount of communication and feedback.
Leadership Skills #1 – Reliability
Let’s start with the simplest, and arguably most important, attribute that all leaders must have. Reliability. It’s as easy as that.
Look, employees want a boss they can rely on. They want to look to their supervisor for both support and stability. After all, when all things begin to crumble, everyone waits for the leader to jump in.
This means emotional stability, too. One of the most defining attributes of reliability is the emotional spectrum. When seats are heated, the supervisor should be level-headed. A less-than-reliable emotional balance can cause teammates to avoid you when stress elevates. This is not only a sign of a bad leader but a quick way to increase employee turnover.
You are the rock. You are the reliable and calm leader that takes every problem head-on, creates solutions and implements them. You are loyal to your employees and back up what you say to them. Promises do not fall on deaf ears, after all.
Leadership Skills #2 – Create Clear Goals
Here’s a frustrating concept; leaders that create lofty business goals with no strategy on how to achieve them.
“We need to increase sales by 20% this quarter. Go get ‘em, team.”
Sure, leaders need to create both achievable and positive goals, but it’s also important for them to have a clear game plan on how they can be met. After all, you are looked at as one of the most knowledgeable in the industry. You were promoted to a leadership role for a reason.
When you establish goals for your team, make sure to establish a way to achieve them. If you are following a participative style of leading, call for a meeting and ask your employees. See if they have any rough ideas of how these things can be achieved.
As a leader, you are a mentor, not just a lawmaker. No one wants to feel lost in the woods with only a sheer light at the end. Construct the path.
Leadership Skills #3 – Communication
Along with being clear about goals, be clear about everything else.
A Linkedin survey in 2018 found that a boss having unclear expectations is the most common complaint made by employees. There are droves of examples proving this, and if you have ever talked to a disheveled friend or employee, they probably have said the same thing.
Nothing is worse than a manager getting upset about something not being done when they never expressed that it needed to be done.
It does not take a communications major to be clear about what needs to be done. Sure, it may take a bit of courage to be direct and confrontational (when applicable). As a leader, this is your responsibility.
Furthermore, try to be clear about things you say. It’s completely okay to ask the employee if they understand what you are getting at. Things should never be lost in communication; this can lead to mistakes and frustration.
Being a great communicator is having an open path on a two-way street. Communication is the discussion of multiple parties, not just one.
Regardless of the commanding style you choose, listening to your teammates should always be a priority. This does not mean you have to take all of their grievances into account, but you should be available for them to express them.
Employees want to feel heard. Employees want to feel valued. We are in the time of the Great Resignation. Potential candidates know their worth and they deserve to be treated as such.
Remember to listen and treat everyone equally, which takes us to the next crucial leadership skill.
Leadership Skills #4 – Build Relationships
Let’s look at famous teams. The X-Men, The Mighty Ducks, any team Tom Brady is the quarterback for. What do they all have in common? The teammates like their leader.
The most proficient way to create workforce success is to build a relationship with your team. As stated, they should feel like valued members of your staff, not just pawns.
This goes past just listening to them, though. You must also allow yourself to become an interactive and sociable member, too. Even if your role plays into the authoritative style of leading, you should still not be a stoic and stern center figure.
Be positive and provide feedback as often as possible. Thank your employees for their work and let them know when they are doing well. Just a simple thank you note can be enough to inspire your team. Only speaking up when micromanaging or criticizing is a quick way to create a toxic environment.
Open up about yourself. Not everything needs to be serious. Share personal stories and lessons during meetings when appropriate. Allow a laugh every once in a while. Let a little bit of your personality show.
This, of course, should remain professional and appropriate, but you want to build relationships with your coworkers. You need to know how to interact with them accordingly.
Which is another perfect segue into our next tip (I know, I’m good).
Leadership Skills #5 – Adapt
One of the most important leadership skills is the ability to form and command differently depending on the employee.
Employee A may do better with positive reinforcement, while Employee B may do better with detailed and concise instruction.
Ultimately, this is your biggest priority as a team leader. You must figure out each of your teammates and learn how to structure for them. Being flexible and able to teach others is pivotal for creating a successful workforce.
Do not fret, though. This comes with time. Don’t expect to learn each of your workers in the first week. As long as you are being communicative, open-minded, and listening to everyone, you’ll eventually be able to figure out the way to go about leading. Just be respectful and…
Leadership Skills #6 – Admit Mistakes
You are not high and mighty. You are not perfect, even though you are in a role of superiority.
Simply put, mistakes will happen. Be willing and open enough to express that it is your fault and work to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
Employees are more likely to try and fix their mistakes if their leader does. Just be honest with yourself and your employees. It’s a learning experience for all of you.
Sure, confidence is always key, and you always want to be the emotional rock of the group. But you can admit defeat if you do so with the openness to learn from your coworkers. They are part of the team, and they may have insight.
Leadership Skills #7 – Care About the Product
There is a subtle trait amongst all great leaders. They care about the product they are producing. Not only does care come across as genuine, but it helps provide for better employee energy, too.
A leader that is only reporting to work for a paycheck shows. It comes across as lackadaisical and causes other employees to lack ambition. It creates for a dragging and lifeless environment.
Overall, a leader should want to create the best possible product. If you are a customer service leader, care about how your customers feel. If you are leading a project, care about what the outcome is. This doesn’t mean that the work has to be your life, or even a passion project, but you should feel as if the work you are doing is important. No one wants to feel like they are wasting away for money.
How to Further Build Leadership Skills
We can talk about the ideal leader all day, but until you put it into practice, everything is just speak.
So, let’s say you are attempting to become a better leader, but want practice and help outside of work. You want to stay away from making crucial mistakes at your actual place of employment.
Well, you’re reading this article, so that’s a great first step. But what else can you do?
Read Books and Podcasts
Continue your research! There are a plethora of books, podcasts and Youtube videos about how to be a better leader. If you are not a visual learner, hearing audible stories and details may be a great way to learn more about the art of leading.
Ultimately, leading is a skill as old as humanity. There are thousands of references about it.
Participate in Leadership Training Exercises
There are also a plethora of workshops led by professional leaders. These may include participating in hands-on examples and gathering resources from experts. Your company or organization may know more about ones in your area.
Lead Another Group
Why not become a leader of a team outside of work? Maybe a local sports club, book club, or church group.
There are plenty of extracurricular activities that need someone in charge. Experience can be found anywhere. Hobby groups may give you great leadership experience without the stress of. Well. Employment.