The 15 Essential Leadership Skills A Great Leader Must Have

15 Essential Leadership Skills A Great Leader Must Have

Learning good and effective leadership skills can help you become a more effective leader.

Granted, skills by themselves won’t make you a great leader – you need to follow good principles of leadership. However, when you follow these leadership principles, growing in these skills can help you be even better as a leader.

Some of these skills are geared more toward leadership itself while others can help anyone be better at their jobs.

If you lack some of these skills, it doesn’t mean you are a bad leader, it just means you need to grow.

Why are leadership skills important? What leadership skills should you grow in as a leader?

In this article, we discuss 15 leadership skills every leader should have.

1. Time management skills

Every leader should be good at managing their time and prioritizing what’s important.

If you can’t manage your time, you will have a hard time getting what is important done. And, if you can’t manage your time well, it will hurt the productivity and effectiveness of your team as well.

Two of the keys to time management are knowing what is important and doing what is important.

As a leader, your goal is to lead your team toward accomplishing a purpose or goal. You need to know what is important to get there.

Then, as a leader, you need to prioritize what is important and make it happen.

The better you are at this, the more effective a leader you will be.

2. Communication skills

Leadership Skills - Communication skills

Every leader should be a good communicator.

A lack of communication is a killer of morale, and productivity, and can be a waste of a lot of revenue.

Think about it: if expectations aren’t clearly explained for a task or project, then hours are wasted, a lot of frustration is created, and money sinks into a hole to fix something that could have been done right the first time with clearer communication.

As a leader, when you communicate well and consistently with your team, it builds trust and openness with your team. When you avoid communicating and hold back, it builds distrust.

Your team may start talking about what they “think” is going on instead of what is true.

If you want to build a good culture of trust and productivity, learn to communicate well.

Also Read: Essential Communication Skills For A Company Leader

3. Vision and Goal casting

Good leaders know how to cast vision and set great goals.

The purpose of leadership is to lead a group of people toward the accomplishment of a goal.

Without vision, without goals, you aren’t leading.

In fact, John Maxwell stated, “Vision is critical to good leadership. I have yet to meet a great leader who lacks vision.” (Good Leaders Ask Great Questions)

You need to be able to set a clear vision of where you are heading and communicate it well.

To learn more about how to set great goals, check out: 5 Steps for Setting Great Goals For Your Business

4. Listening Skills

Good leaders are great listeners.

One of the reasons many organizations fail or do poorly is that leaders don’t listen.

Two reasons morale gets low and the culture becomes toxic are because people feel they aren’t listened to, and they feel they are not cared about.

When you take the time to listen, it shows you care. When you take your employees’ suggestions and implement them, it helps build motivation and loyalty.

When you listen, it also helps you make better decisions. Generally, the people at the front know more about the problem than you do.

When you don’t take the time to listen (or even give them the power to solve the problem), you miss out on a lot of information that would help you make a better decision.

When you don’t listen, you don’t get new ideas that could improve productivity and save money.

When you don’t listen, you don’t hear reasons why your plans may fail or how they could be better, and you suffer for it.

If you want to be a successful leader, learn to be a great listener. ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

5. People skills

Leadership Skills - People skills

Good leaders know how to build relationships with people. They have good people skills.

If you don’t know how to talk to people, start conversations, listen, make people feel welcome and heard, or how to empathize with people, you are going to struggle as a leader.

It will also be harder to build influence with people when you don’t know how to communicate with them.

You don’t have to be an extrovert or what many consider “charismatic” to be a great leader, but you do need to know how to work with people (in fact, Jim Collins in his book Good to Great stated that those who were not the typical charismatic leader were more effective).

One of the most important steps in building relationships and people skills is listening, which we discussed above.

6. Decision making

Good leaders are good at making decisions.

This doesn’t mean they are always right or know that their decision is going to work out.

But it does mean they know how to look at the issue, gather the amount of information they need, look at the different possibilities and probabilities, and then decide.

Good leaders are decisive. ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

Some leaders make decisions too fast. They don’t take the time to listen to others and are looking at the relevant information before making a decision.

Others take way too long. They fear making mistakes or being wrong, so they delay. They want to be 100% certain, so they keep pushing back on deciding.

The problem with that is you rarely if ever will be 100% certain. And, when you don’t make a decision, that IS a decision. And, sometimes, that decision is worse than if you made the “wrong” decision.

Good leaders look at the costs of not deciding and waiting to decide.

If you want to be a better leader, learn to make decisions well.

7. Problem-solving Skills

Leadership skills - Great leaders are good problem solvers

Good leaders are good problem solvers.

They know how to look at problems, identify the roots, ask the right questions, and plan solutions.

Some leaders freeze up with large problems and don’t know how to break them down. Sometimes they do the equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Don’t do that.

As a leader, you need to learn how to effectively solve problems. Learn effective problem-solving steps or systems and implement them.

You are always going to face problems, so it’s important as a leader to be able to handle them well.

Also Read: The 5 Best Books on Problem Solving

8. Conflict resolution

If people are involved, there is going to be conflict.

Good leaders know how to resolve conflicts they have personally as well as how to help and encourage others to resolve it well as well.

It’s important to note, though, that conflict by itself is not bad. Conflict is normal. Disagreeing with one another is a great way to learn new perspectives and build better plans and ideas.

It’s when it becomes negative or handled poorly that it becomes an issue.

As a leader, you need to learn to separate the issue from the person and learn how to address the issue with the person.

Good leaders don’t talk about people they have issues with – they talk to the people. ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

Good leaders also encourage and teach their people how to resolve conflict and deal directly with the person with the issue.

The steps to dealing with conflict are simple, but they are hard.

As a leader, it’s important that you learn how to handle conflict well yourself and teach others how to do so as well.

Also Read: Conflict Resolution: The Essential Guide

9. Thinking skills

Good leaders are great thinkers. They think big and cast vision from it.

They think strategically, help develop plans toward their goals and help make sure what they and their team do moves them forward toward their goals.

They take time to think and reflect on their work, problems, and how well they handled issues. They reflect and try to learn so they can do better.

If you want to be a good leader, learn to be a good thinker as well.


Leadership Skills - Delegate tasks

Good leaders are good delegators.

As a leader, you aren’t meant to do everything. You aren’t meant to get results yourself, you are meant to get results through your team.

You need to be able to delegate tasks and projects well to your team.

One mistake leaders make when delegating is they equate delegation with abdication. However, delegation does not equal abdication.

As a leader, you are responsible for everything your team does. Yes, you empower them, set expectations, and allow them to do their job.

However, just because you delegate a task doesn’t mean you ignore it. You still want to have some form of oversight.

Sometimes leaders do a poor job of setting expectations or providing the needed training (or giving the task to the wrong person) and get upset that they don’t do it as they should, so they go back to doing everything themselves again.

That, as we know, is not effective or good.

Good leaders delegate well. They set clear expectations, provide the needed level of oversight depending on the person, and empower their team to do their job well.

Also Read: The Definitive Guide to Delegation

11.Inspire and Motivate

Good leaders inspire and motivate their teams.

There will be good days and tough days. When the going is hard, the culture you create and being there to help motivate and inspire your team is important.

Three of the main human motivations are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. People want to have some form of control over what they do, be growing and get better at their job, and have a purpose for what they are doing.

If you do that, you are doing well helping your team be motivated.

Listening and helping your team see the big picture and how their work helps move the vision forward also can help your team be motivated when things get hard.

As a leader, you need to be good at motivating and inspiring your team (and creating the culture that creates that).

12. Planning Skills

Planning can be a great leadership soft skill.

Now, each person is different, their levels of organization are different, and their detail orientation is different.

With that being said, the better you are at planning ahead, the more productive and effective you will be.

This doesn’t mean you don’t allow spontaneity or are super-rigid about your plans – plans help you prepare and focus on the important so that, when spontaneity comes up, you can make sure you stay focused on the important.

When you plan and prepare for important conversations or how to do certain projects, it helps you and your team produce better.

Whatever your level of detail orientation may be, the better you can learn to plan, the more effective as a leader you will be.

13. Coaching/mentoring

Leadership Skills - An effective leader is also a coach and mentor.

As a leader, it’s vital that you develop and grow your team to be the best they can be.

It’s also important that you are developing and raising up leaders. In fact, Simon Sinek says in his book The Infinite Game that developing new leaders is one of the primary jobs of a leader.

Your goal as a leader is not to catch them doing wrong but to help them do better. You want to develop them to be their best because it’s good for them, it shows you care, it builds loyalty, and it benefits you and the business because it increases their productivity and motivation.

It’s important to develop leaders because eventually you will leave, and you want the work to continue well afterward. If it falls apart when you leave, you really did not do that great of a job as a leader.

And, the more leaders you develop, the better the organization will run.

14. Self-awareness and self-management

One of the key  skills a leader needs to have is self-awareness and self-management (okay, maybe that’s two, but they are closely related).

Self-awareness is being aware of your emotions, how you are feeling, and how it is affecting you.

Self-management is being able to manage your emotions in a positive way.

For example, if you are angry or irritable, you are aware of it and you manage it so that you don’t lash out at others.

Without self-awareness, you may be coming across very negatively to others and not know it.

Without self-management, you may be aware, but you are terrible at controlling how you feel and may have to apologize – a lot.

If you don’t have this skill (or skills), it’s something you definitely want to work on as a leader.

15. People management

People management is a vital leadership skill.

This skill encompasses many of the other skills we mentioned: motivating people, dealing with conflict, and so on. It’s about being able to manage people and all the needs and issues that come with that.

If you have poor people management skills, you aren’t going to go very far as a leader.

Final Thoughts on 15 Leadership Skills

Growing in these leadership skills can help you be a better leader. It can help you create a better and more productive culture and help you motivate your employees.

It can help you solve the issues that leaders face.

As you went through the list, if you see you were weak in certain areas, that’s okay. Just take the time to start working on it.

And if you haven’t checked out our article 15 Core Principles of Leadership, make sure to do so. Skills without principles won’t get you very far.

Now to you: What skill stuck out to you? Did we miss any you find important? Let us know in the comments below!

Also Read: Leadership Styles: 13 Principles They Teach Us About Leadership

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