10 Skills Every Leader Should Master

leadership skills

They’ll know you by what you do.

It’s all about actions. The will to take them and the skill to execute them.

If you’re a new or aspiring leader wanting to up your game so that one day you become an extraordinary leader, then it’s time you master the critical skills necessary for the role.

Not sure where to start?

There are many skills you might choose to learn or polish. Allow me to offer 10 suggestions, just in case you are coming up empty.

1. Help your team find its purpose

A clear and meaningful purpose focuses and energizes your group. For some teams, the purpose is obvious and inspirational. It’s easy to imagine an emergency room team rallying around, “We save lives.” Most work doesn’t feel quite so dramatic. Nevertheless, your team needs to believe in its value. Your job is to help them see what it is.

2. Communicate expectations

You want employees to meet your expectations. It’s as simple as that. And when they don’t, you are disappointed at best and angry at worst. Is it their fault? Maybe. It could also be yours. Perhaps you haven’t clearly communicated your expectations. It’s also possible that your expectations are not reasonable. It’s time to make them clear and reasonable.

3. Deliver feedback

Employees need to know how they are doing. They depend on your feedback to meet that need. The majority of the feedback you provide should reinforce desired behaviors. A smaller, but equally important portion should focus on changing behaviors. Most managers don’t provide enough of either. And when they do offer it, their lack of skill creates new problems. Do you provide adequate feedback?

4. Listen

Strong listening skills help you in two ways. First, you more clearly understand people and concepts. This leads to better decisions. Second, active listening helps others feel like you care about them, which increases respect. The result is stronger, more trusting relationships with your employees, peers, and manager.

5. Ask great questions

When you hear an answer you don’t like, it could be that you asked the wrong question. Forming and asking skillful questions can improve your team’s creativity, problem-solving, productivity, and results. Unfortunately, people place more emphasis on the answers rather than the questions. This misplaced emphasis leads them down an unintended path. It’s time for you to ask the right questions.

6. Speak up when no one else will

Sometimes the problem isn’t what to say. The real challenge is determining if you should say anything at all. There are plenty of situations in which speaking up seems like a dangerous option. And yet, it’s clear that someone has to find the courage. Will that someone be you?

7. Deal with meeting trouble-makers

Every meeting has a couple. There’s the person who dominates the conversation. There’s the one who is all heavy sighs and eye rolls. Some will take you off track. A few will distract you with their phones. The worst will leave you shaking in your shoes. If only meeting participants would be on their best behavior. As you are well aware, they often are not. It’s time you learned to deal with these people.

8. Getting others to say yes

Sometimes there isn’t a lot of room for deciding what the right answer should be. Instead, you have a request, and you need others to do it. The challenge is getting them to say yes, especially when you don’t hold formal authority over the person you are asking. Imagine how much easier your life would be if the answer to your requests is a resounding, “Yes.”

9. Communicate a change

Many of the problems that arise during major (and even minor) organizational changes can be traced back to ineffective communication. There are critical questions you must answer for employees. When it’s your job to get employees moving in a new direction, you’ll need to know what and how to communicate, so
that your team members understand the change and more quickly accept it, especially when you believe they won’t like it.

10. Resilience

Everyone falls. And if you claim that you don’t, that would be a shame because it means you aren’t trying hard enough. Learn to fall in a way that doesn’t create permanent damage. Discover how to get back on your feet more quickly when you do go down. Be a role model your employees can follow when they struggle.

Ready to learn?

There is always plenty to learn as a leader. I’ve provided 10 suggestions. There are so many others. The 10 I’ve listed are part of The Leadership Expedition, a multi-session, cohort program for new or emerging leaders.

If leaders in your organization are coming up short on these skills, we should talk about how The Leadership Expedition might build their skills and confidence as leaders.

Leadership Training

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce owns LaForce Teamwork Services, a Minneapolis-based consulting company. He's on a mission to create better results through teamwork. He wrote Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings.