As famed NFL coach and executive Vince Lombardi once said, “Leaders aren't born, they are made.” Great leaders work hard to achieve their goals. They invest in the experiences and the education needed to become the best they can be – and moreover, to lead others in doing the same. If you are wondering how to become a great leader, stand out to prospective employers, or climb the career ladder at your current job, you must cultivate the leadership skills to succeed. While good leadership may start from within, great leadership requires certain skillsets – skills that are applicable across a variety of industries, organizations, departments, and teams – such as:
- Communication skills
- Effective decision-making
- Integrity and trust
What are the most valuable leadership skills employers are seeking today?
1. Communication Skills
Leaders are in constant communication with others – their employees, partners, customers, and other managers. As a result, having excellent communication skills is essential for success. Employers are looking for leaders who can clearly and succinctly articulate information, goals, tasks, and results. You must be prepared to communicate one-on-one with individuals, as well as large teams and departments. You must master all forms of communication, too – from in-person and phone conversations, to professional email and social media messages. Communication is not always about talking, either. Good communicators are those with strong listening skills, as well. You should be able to listen to your employees' needs and concerns, and establish a method in which employees can easily communicate with you. Other related communication skills employers are looking for today include:
- Active listening
- Business storytelling
- Facilitating group discussions
- Public speaking
- Written communication
- Verbal communication
- Clarity and concision
- Presentation skills
- Expression of empathy towards others
At the core of leadership is the responsibility to resolve problems within a department or organization. This may be an internal problem, such as between employees, or an external problem with customers or competition. As a leader, you must be able to approach the conflict with a level-head, assess the situation entirely, and resolve the problem rationally. The problem-solving skills that employers are looking for in modern leaders include:
- Creativity, to think outside-the-box
- Sound judgment
- Analytical skills
- Strategic planning
- Ability to think on your feet, which brings us to…
3. Effective Decision-Making
When a leader is faced with a problem or difficult situation, he or she must be able to think quickly and critically. People depend on leaders' ability to think on their feet, act decisively, and make the best possible decision for their organization, under any type of circumstance. Quick and effective decision-making requires confidence. Therefore, employers are seeking leaders who are confident in their ideas and their ability to put ideas into action. To reach a decision you are confident in, you must have the analytical skills to get there. You must have the ability to analyze a situation completely and effectively, from all sides, without bias, and to then strategize an action plan. A great leader will always stand behind their decisions, and be willing to defend them when necessary. If you can do so, then in turn, you will gain respect from employers and team members.
4. Integrity and Trust
To gain the respect of your employers and employees, you must first be able to earn their trust. Trust is essential to great leadership. When people trust you, they will trust your ideas and decisions. They will follow you and listen to you when needed. So, how do you develop trustworthiness? You can gain others' trust by displaying integrity, honesty, and humility in all that you do. Integrity means doing the right thing, and having strong workplace, business, and personal ethics. Honesty means being truthful, transparent, and being open with your employees. Humility means recognizing that your say is not the only way, that there is always room for feedback, and that your employees have great strengths to contribute to your team. As Stephen Ufford, founder of Trulioo explains: “Humility enables effective leaders to appreciate others’ strengths and contributions, learn from constructive criticism, take risks for the greater good, and empower others to learn and develop. Engaged employees feel included and have a sense of belonging, motivating them to go beyond the call of duty.” This, he deems, is one of the most valuable leadership skills.
Relationship-building is a key part of any business, whether it's a healthcare facility, retail company, or non-profit organization. You must build relationships with your clients, your business partners, as well as your team of employees. You must also encourage your team to build relationships with one another. That's what great leaders do. They have the ability to build and maintain a collaborate team of individuals, working towards a common goal. They also have the ability to develop strong and trusting relationships with clients and partners, who will depend on them during times of need.
6. Flexibility and Versatility
Now more than ever, businesses (and their leaders) need to be flexible. They need to be able to adapt to situations that arise, as well as to changing technological needs. Just recently, many companies were required to develop and implement a remote work strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic. But this is just one example of the many challenges that could come up in your leadership role. You need to be flexible to whatever changes come your way, take them with stride, and think creatively during times of need. To the same end, you must also be flexible in your skillsets. According to Adrienne Tom, the Executive Resume Master of Career Impressions, “Versatility across multiple areas of business is proving to be a coveted leadership trait. Gone are the days of singular expertise; businesses covet skill diversity and agility. The greater the exposure to various job functions, the easier it can be for leaders to navigate the ever-evolving world of business, adapt to changing business demands, and provide beneficial solutions.” In line with flexibility and versatility, related leadership skills that employers look for include:
- Ability to learn
- Quick responsiveness to problems
- Openness to feedback
7. Delegation and Prioritization
To be a great leader, you must also be a great manager. And to be that, you must be able to delegate and prioritize tasks – for both yourself, and your team. Delegation requires leaders to be respectful and aware of team member's schedules and bandwidth. It also requires leaders to challenge their employees to push new boundaries, to hold them accountable for each task, and to motivate them through and through. Employers highly-value and look for delegation skills such as:
- Time management
- Quality assurance
- Effective explanation skills
- Performance evaluation
- Training skills
- Collaboration and brainstorming
- Project management
- People management
8. The Ability to Lead People Effectively
Leadership is not defined by a title, nor is it defined by a personal characteristic or trait. Rather, leadership is defined by a person's ability to lead and influence others to do great work. As Ronald Reagan once said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” How does one do this, exactly? The following leadership skills reflect a person's ability to not only manage people, but to inspire them and to motivate change.
- Goal Development – A great leader sets goals for employees.
- Determination – Without determination, a leader cannot realize his or her goals.
- Empowerment – A leader should empower their team to accomplish their goals.
- Leadership by Example – A great leader shows others how to be great leaders, which may mean working long hours, being open to feedback, and showing respect for all employees.
- Empathy – Empathy allows leaders to understand their employees' needs and feelings, which is important in facilitating change.
- Mentorship – Being a leader means being a mentor. Your employees should be able to come to you for advice, and you – as a mentor – should be open to their questions and eagerness to learn.
How can you develop leadership skills?
If you are interested in becoming a great leader, a management and leadership training program is the ideal next step. Through this type of program – offered at the Bachelor's level at Goodwin University – you can learn from industry-leaders who are established in the world of business. Goodwin also has close partnerships with employers throughout the state of Connecticut, giving us an intimate understanding of the types of leadership skills employers are looking for today. All Goodwin classes are career-focused, skills-driven, and designed with employers' needs in mind. Our leadership courses, which can be taken entirely online, cover the following topics and beyond:
- Positive Mentoring
- Organizational Change
- Talent Development and Performance Assessment
- Leadership Theory and Practice in the Organization
- Team Dynamics and Individual Skills
- Understanding Worker Behaviors
- Cross-cultural Competencies in Organizations
- Facilitating Groups
- Strategic Planning for Organizations
- Project Management
Goodwin University is a recognized leadership school in Connecticut, with various programs in business, management, and leadership. Here, you can pursue your bachelor's degree in Management and Leadership, and go on to earn a Master's in Organizational Leadership (MSOL). To learn about our program offerings, please call 800-889-3282 today.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.