Leadership Skills List and Examples
When companies hire for leadership roles they look for people with qualities that will allow them to successfully interact with colleagues, clients, and others in the workplace and beyond. People in leadership roles are required to put people first. Employers also look for candidates who have a high degree of emotional intelligence, patience, and a working knowledge of human resources, in order to keep both the employee and the company taken care of.
Here's a list of leadership skills and qualities for resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Skills will vary based on the job for which you're applying, so also review our lists of skills listed by job and type of skill.
The Most Important Skills Employers Look for in Leadership Roles
Communication is about more than the basics of sharing ideas, or conveying information. For leaders, communication is the most fundamental skill he or she can possess when it comes to leading an individual, or a team. Leaders should be able to effectively communicate with individuals, and with groups. Communicating well is more than the sum of its parts.
It’s one thing to say or write something, and another to have people know exactly what you mean. A good communicator will be able to express themselves clearly, without engendering confusion or murkiness. A good communicator also understands that communication goes both ways: being a good listener is as important (or possibly more important!).
Being a good communicator means transcending written and verbal communication. An excellent communicator will convey a sense of openness and non-judgment, even when they’re not saying anything. Body language and general countenance can sometimes convey even more than words. Employers will often seek candidates who are intrinsically calm, open, optimistic, and positive. These traits usually come through nonverbally.
Managing people means supporting subordinates. The means not only enabling them to do their jobs well, but also helping them to move forward in their careers. Sometimes this means helping them improve their skillsets to become better at the nitty gritty of their work. Sometimes it means assisting them in developing their own communication styles. Whatever the work is, adopting a coaching mindset is an integral part of being a good leader. A coach encourages and supports. A coach is part cheerleader, part trainer, and a leader in a business environment should be comfortable in this role.
Giving direction doesn’t come naturally to every leader, but it’s an integral aspect of a leadership job. Leaders should be able to clearly and effectively formulate directions for others, and then articulate them in such a way as to convey them effectively. Subordinates should be clear on what’s expected of them. Direction often involves more than a simple, “do X by X date.” Direction can involve guidance, instruction, mentorship, planning, and keeping a positive attitude even if someone is struggling.
Along with communicating and coaching, relationship building can make or break a leader. A good leader will value relationships, and will actively work to build one-on-one associations as well as fostering healthy relationships among the community. Relationship building could be as simple as remembering certain personal details about people, and inquiring about those things every now and again. Or, it could be more purposeful, and involve out-of-work activities and team-building efforts like retreats and events.
Most of all, building relationships is about authenticity, and genuinely connecting with people in a way that creates a familiar feeling, and a sense of community.
There are leadership opportunities across the board in almost every industry imaginable. If you possess some of these traits, along with good judgment, honesty, and a sense of humor, pursuing a career in leadership could be right for you.
Leadership Skills List
A - G
- Business Development
- Business Intelligence
- Business Storytelling
- Change Leadership
- Conflict Management
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Critical Thinking
- Decision Making
- Directing Others
- Emotional Intelligence
- Financial Management
- Goal Setting
- Good Judgment
H - M
N - S
- Nonverbal Communication
- Open Minded
- Organization Strategies
- People Development
- Positive Attitude
- Problem Solving
- Relationship Building
- Results Oriented
- Strategic Change
- Strategic Planning
T - Z
What Can You Do with This List?
Consider strong managers that you've worked with in your field — which of the skills on this list do they have? Take a look at the job advertisements within your field as well to see which leadership skills are mentioned again and again. This type of thinking will help you know the skills you should emphasize in your cover letters, resume, and during interviews.
Reviewing this list can also give you a sense of gaps in your skills. If you don't possess one of them, ask yourself if you can or should develop it. Be realistic: No one person can have every single skill on the list. And furthermore, not all skills are meaningful in every field.
How Can You Build Leadership Skills?
You do not need to be manager-level or supervise projects or people to cultivate and demonstrate leadership skills. You can develop these skills on the job, by following these strategies:
- Take initiative: Look beyond the tasks on your job description. Think long term about what would be beneficial for your department and the company. Try to brainstorm ideas and commit to doing work that goes beyond the daily routine.
- Request more responsibility: While you wouldn't want to ask for additional responsibility your second week on the job, once you've been in a position for awhile, you can share with your manager that you're eager to grow your leadership abilities. Ask how you can help out - are there upcoming projects that require a point person? Is there any work that you can take off your manager's to-do list?
- Target specific skills: If you have a specific skill you want to develop - whether it's creative thinking or communication - create a plan to improve your abilities in this area. This could mean taking a class, finding a mentor to help, reading books, or setting a small goal that forces you to engage with this skill. Talk to managers and co-workers, as well as friends outside of the office, to help develop your plan to increase a particular skill.
- Types of leadership