Do you have the leadership skills that employers look for? Whether you are an office manager or a project leader, all good leaders require a number of soft skills to help them positively interact with employees or team members.
What Makes an Effective Leader
Effective leaders have the ability to communicate well, motivate their team, handle and delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback, and have the flexibility to solve problems in an ever-changing workplace.
Employers seek these skills in the candidates they hire for leadership roles. Strong leadership skills are also valuable for all job applicants and employees.
Watch Now: 8 Qualities That Make an Exceptional Leader
Top 10 Leadership Skills
Here are the top ten leadership skills that make a strong leader in the workplace.
As a leader, you need to be able to clearly and succinctly explain to your employees everything from organizational goals to specific tasks. Leaders must master all forms of communication, including one-on-one, departmental, and full-staff conversations, as well as communication via the phone, email, video, chat, and social media.
Leaders should establish a steady flow of communication between themselves and their staff or team members, either through an open-door policy or regular conversations with workers.
A large part of communication involves listening. Leaders should make themselves regularly available to discuss issues and concerns with employees. Other skills related to communication include:
- Active listening
- Business storytelling
- Facilitating group conversations
- Nonverbal communication
- Public speaking
- Reading body language
- Reducing ambiguity
- Verbal communication
- Written communication
Leaders need to inspire their workers to go the extra mile for their organizations; just paying a fair salary to employees is typically not enough inspiration (although it is important too). There are a number of ways to motivate your workers: you may build employee self-esteem through recognition and rewards, or by giving employees new responsibilities to increase their investment in the company.
Leaders must learn what motivators work best for their employees or team members to encourage productivity and passion. Skills related to effective motivation include:
- Allowing employee autonomy
- Asking for input
- Assessing the interests of staff
- Open to employee concerns
- Providing productive and challenging work
- Providing rewards
- Recognizing others
- Setting effective goals
- Thanking staff
- Understanding employee differences
Leaders who try to take on too many tasks by themselves will struggle to get anything done. These leaders often fear that delegating tasks is a sign of weakness, when it actually can be a sign of a strong leader.
Therefore, you need to identify the skills of each of your employees, and assign duties to each employee based on his or her skill set. By delegating tasks to staff members, you can focus on other important tasks. Some skills that make a good delegator include:
- Accepting feedback from employees
- Allotting resources for employees
- Assessing employee strengths and weaknesses
- Defining expectations
- Evaluating employee performance
- Identifying measurable outcomes
- Matching the task to the right employee
- Prioritizing tasks
- Setting expectations
- Time management
- Trust in employees
A positive attitude can go a long way in an office. You should be able to laugh at yourself when something doesn't go quite as planned; this helps create a happy and healthy work environment, even during busy, stressful periods.
Simple acts like asking employees about their weekend or vacation plans will develop a positive atmosphere in the office, and raise morale among staff members.
If employees feel that they work in a positive environment, they will be more likely to want to be at work, and will therefore be more willing to put in the long hours when needed. Some skills that help make for a positive atmosphere in the workplace include:
- Conflict management
- Developing rapport
- Helping others
- Positive reinforcement
Employees need to be able to feel comfortable coming to their manager or leader with questions and concerns. It is important for you to demonstrate your integrity— employees will only trust leaders they respect.
By being open and honest, you will encourage the same sort of honesty in your employees. Here are some skills and qualities that will help you convey your trustworthiness as a leader:
- Ability to apologize
- Business ethics
- Consistent in behavior towards employees
- Emotional intelligence
- Moral compass
- Standing up for what is right
As a leader, you have to make a number of decisions that do not have a clear answer, so you need to be able to think outside of the box.
Learning to try nontraditional solutions, or approaching problems in nontraditional ways, will help you to solve an otherwise unsolvable problem.
Many employees will also be impressed and inspired by a leader who doesn't always choose the safe, conventional path. Here are some skills related to creative thinking:
- Cognitive flexibility
- Critical thinking
- Embracing different cultural perspectives
- Identifying patterns
- Listening to others’ ideas
- Making abstract connections
- Problem solving
- Sound judgment
Leaders should constantly look for opportunities to deliver useful information to team members about their performance. However, there is a fine line between offering employees advice and assistance, and micromanaging. By teaching employees how to improve their work and make their own decisions, you will feel more confident delegating tasks to your staff.
Employees will also respect a leader who provides feedback in a clear but empathetic way. Some skills for giving clear feedback include:
- Being open to receiving feedback
- Building confidence in employees
- Clearly laying out expectations
- Following up
- Frequent feedback
- Listening to employees’ responses
- Positive reinforcement
- Providing specific advice
A leader is responsible for both the successes and failures of his or her team. Therefore, you need to be willing to accept blame when something does not go correctly.
If your employees see their leader pointing fingers and blaming others, they will lose respect for you. Accept mistakes and failures, and then devise clear solutions for improvement. Here are some skills and qualities that help leaders convey their responsibility:
- Acknowledging mistakes
- Being open to customer feedback
- Evaluating best solutions
- Learning from past mistakes
- Listening to feedback from employees and managers
- Project planning
- Resolving problems
It is important for leaders to follow through with what they agree to do. You should be willing to put in the extra hours to complete an assignment; employees will see this commitment and follow your example.
Similarly, when you promise your staff a reward, such as an office party, you should always follow through. A leader cannot expect employees to commit to their jobs and their tasks if he or she cannot do the same. Some skills related to commitment in the workplace include:
- Applying feedback
- Commitment to company objectives
- Embracing professional development
- Following through
- Keeping promises
- Team player
- Work ethic
Mishaps and last-minute changes always occur at work. Leaders need to be flexible, accepting whatever changes come their way. Employees will appreciate your ability to accept changes in stride and creatively problem solve.
Similarly, leaders must be open to suggestions and feedback. If your staff is dissatisfied with an aspect of the office environment, listen to their concern and be open to making necessary changes. Employees will appreciate a leader's ability to accept appropriate feedback. Skills related to flexibility include:
- Ability to learn new skills
- Ability to respond to new problems or issues
- Open to feedback
- Recognizing individuals’ strengths and skills
- Treating employees as individuals
More Essential Skills for Leaders
Review a list of leadership skills and examples, as well as some of the best skills to include on your resume and LinkedIn, incorporate them into your job search and career materials, and mention them during job interviews.
How You Can Build Leadership Skills
You do not need to supervise or be a manager to cultivate leadership skills. You can develop these skills on the job in the following ways:
- Take initiative: Look beyond the tasks in 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 in your second week on the job, once you've been in a position long enough to become an expert, 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 of your manager's to-do list?
- Target specific skills: If you have a specific skill that 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 develop this skill. Talk to managers and co-workers, as well as friends outside of the office, to help develop your plan to improve.
How to Showcase Your Skills
You can use the skill words listed here as you search for jobs. For example, apply the terms in your resume, especially in the description of your work history. You can also incorporate them into your cover letter. Mention one or two of the skills mentioned here, and give specific examples of instances when you demonstrated these traits at work.
You can also use these words in your interview. Keep the top skills listed here in mind during your interview, and be prepared to give examples of how you've exemplified leadership when you respond.