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Leading With Agility

Important Skills of a Leader – 10 Leadership Skills for Effective Leaders

As workplaces become more complex, leaders feel more pressured to maintain performance. You might be curious about executive coaching but is it for you? Get your answers here.

Why are leadership skills important to managers?

According to the World Economic Forum, leadership skills are some of the most in-demand soft skills in today’s complex workplaces. While there is no specific data as to how many leadership skills a leader needs in his career or a fixed leadership style leaders need to adopt to be truly effective, we do know for sure is that an effective leader is one who is willing and ready to take up the mantle of leadership.

He also has abundant leadership potential – in both mindset and skills – to go further tomorrow than he has today, whether it’s in a nonprofit organization or a business.

You need leadership skills if you are starting your first job, charting your career, leading a team or collaborating within a global organization. With the complex nature of workplaces now, it is critical that you grow a strong ability to get the job done and meet your goals by developing the skills to work with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Develop leadership skills as early as you can so you will become a successful leader

As your workplace becomes increasingly complex, the bar for leaders is set higher and higher by the day. If there’s one message you take away from this post today, it should be that leadership skills will only become more important as time goes on. You can gain an advantage by developing your leadership skills as early as possible. Whether you’ve just been promoted or have a few years of experience under your belt, it pays to build important skills for success.

Read on for the 10 leadership skills you can start to develop today to give you a good head start in leadership –  Strive to navigate complexities and uncertainties with a sense of ease and authenticity.

lead with ease and authenticty, smooth sailing like the boat
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Ten Leadership Skills a Leader Needs to Develop

1. Communicate and Connect Effectively

The list of leadership characteristics or soft skills may change with time but one skill stood out in my professional coaching practice. John Maxwell said, a good leader communicates; a great leader connects. Effective leadership often begins with the knack for working with people. Communicating effectively with diverse team members and the senior leadership team is not an easy job. I am sure for those of you who are managers now will fully agree with this statement.

As I support managers and senior executives from global businesses as their leadership coach, I see the phenomenal impact on their executive presence and influence once they develop or enhance this soft skill. This is one of the core skills leaders and managers like you need to develop because not only will it help you achieve your goals – It will prolong the success in your career. To be successful in your leadership journey, communication is just one of the first leadership skills you need to learn and hone continuously.

Examine your communication skills now. Evaluate your effectiveness with these questions.

  • Do your employees, through the way they do their jobs, show commitment towards the vision and purpose? ‘Starting with why’ is one of the leadership skills that you must aim to cultivate if you want to connect with millennial and gen-z employees effectively.
  • Are you listening more than you are speaking?
  • Going beyond words, what are you communicating with your actions?
  • How do you know employees are fully committed to your strategy?
communicate effectively with your colleagues and employees
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With great communication skills, you will be able to galvanize strong support and build relationships in your organization. This speeds up the decision making process where you align teams, and the ability to adapt swiftly as one whole organization.

Communication skills are both art and science and well worth your time to invest in your leadership development roadmap.

2. Inspire Confidence

 Effective leaders help employees and team members sail through crisis so another important leadership skill good leaders need to develop is the ability to inspire confidence.

To inspire confidence in others, a leader first needs to have self-confidence. That means the leader is authentic and driven by values. A confident leader is not afraid to take risks or face changes. He is also open to try out new ways of working (and make mistakes along the way) because he knows he can emerge stronger and better with every experience. All that shows up in his leadership style as executive presence as he communicates with employees appropriately in volatile times.

 Some questions to help you develop your leadership presence.

  • What is your reason to lead?
  • Strengthen the Captain in the Five Inner Voices, my Agile Leadership Framework.
  • How can you turn your leadership learning into compelling stories that inspire confidence?
  • Leverage the Strategist in the Five Inner Voices
The Captain, one of five inner voices of leadership agility

One way to increase confidence within your company is by sharing information on hand while making the vision clear to your team members. This builds trust and raises team motivation. Becoming a trustworthy company also means more employees will want to step up to leadership roles and serve within your organization. As nurturing more leaders in the pipeline is very likely your responsibility as a manager so consider how the methods with which you motivate and inspire employees.

3. Demonstrate High Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your emotions and the emotions of others.

It is also the ability to manage those emotions in yourself and others.

This is one of the most fundamental leadership skills that can speed up your success. That is probably why many leadership development programs begin with a ‘personal mastery’ segment because increasing self-awareness for leaders is an ongoing process.

When you demonstrate high emotional intelligence, you will be able to do the following:

  1. Recognize and validate emotions in yourself and in others
  2. Tailor your message to meet the emotional needs of your audience
  3. Flex your range of leadership styles

If you are new to this area – Here are five elements of emotional intelligence according to the American psychologist, Daniel Goleman.

i. Self-awareness

It is about being aware of what your emotion is in the moment, why you feel it or what triggered it.

Structured reflection time (for example: writing down your thoughts and feelings in the form of a diary or journal) can help deepen your self-awareness.

ii. Self-management

In this second step, you manage your emotions that you have discovered in your observation from the first step (why you feel that way and what triggered it) to prevent negative verbal or physical reactions. Self-management helps you stay calm in stressful situations and be accountable for your emotions. It also increases your ownership of your actions.

crop black businesswoman speaking on smartphone on street
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iii. Self-motivation

Self-motivation, although considered a character trait, is also considered one of the leadership skills because it can be learned and applied in your organization/team.

A motivated leader is like a spark that lights a fire – your high energy is infectious to your employees.

Having a clear vision of who you want to be and how to get there keeps your motivation (and resilience) high.

iv. Empathy

Effective leading often being is with empathy. Having empathy will gain you the trust and loyalty of your team. Walking in their shoes helps you connect with employees authentically and validate their emotions – one of the critical leadership traits.

Look out for opportunities to show that you understand and demonstrate positive care for your employees. Gain skills that help you dialogue with employees of various ages, cultures, genders and backgrounds.

v. Social awareness (or social skills)

Leaders who are socially aware interacts well with employees and others inside and outside of the organization/team.

Some key questions that could aid your development:

  • How do you practice social awareness as a leader?
  • How do you manage the boundaries as a leader?
  • Are you relatable as a leader?

One simple way to start displaying this leadership skills is by genuinely showing interest in others and actively listening to their stories. In other words, make your conversations more about your employees because good leaders communicate but great leaders connect.

I recommend that you embark on building your emotional intelligence because Daniel Goleman has found that “emotional intellience proved to be twice as important as other skills like technical skills and IQ, for jobs at all levels.”

4. Build Trust

“Leadership is an honest business,” said one of my clients and indeed it is.

One of the important leadership skills you need so that you will become a successful leader is lead with integrity and honesty. Many leaders I know are guided by these great leadership values. Where they can easily accelerate their progress is to communicate such that these values are seen, felt and understood by employees.

A study by Marcus Buckingham has recently found that leaders need to build more trust in the workplace. In his study, he has found that employees do not fear change. On the contrary, what makes change management difficult for them is being kept in the dark. Build trust by communicating openly and with appropriate level of transparency is another useful skill for you,

In your context, leading when you do not know where the business is headed towards (yet) requires you to be courageous, to be vulnerable. If you want higher employee engagement, stronger team commitment and better company performance, consider how you are building trust in your workplace with open communication.

In my practice, I have discovered that leading by vulnerability is a powerful skill to acquire. Consider how and why you can use vulnerability to your advantage.

5. Promote Healthy Failures for Disruptive Innovation

Successful companies are innovative. At the same time, the world’s largest companies are facing the threat of increasing rate of constructive destruction. What this means is only the businesses that can learn fast, fail fast and innovate will survive the constant waves of disruption. Nurturing innovation and continuously improvement must be a leadership imperative for every business.

If you’re looking for sustainable competitive advantage, innovation should be your focus. To do this, companies need to build an environment where it’s safe to make mistakes and push boundaries while still considering the customer’s perspective.

The company must encourage new ideas not only from top-down management but also empower employees to surface ideas bottom-up. How you respond then, as a leader, in the face of ‘failures’ make or break the innovative culture.

Some questions for your reflection as your review your leadership skills in this area:

  • How do you show that you are comfortable with failure?
  • What does failure really mean?
  • How will you manage the risks of each experiment?

I also encourage you to read the paradox Bottom-Up vs Top-Down in my book, ‘8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility’.

Bottom-Up vs Top-Down from 8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility

6. Expand Common Ground

A good manager understands the need for a diverse workforce. Multiple studies have shown that companies which employ people across genders, ethnicities, age groups, sexual orientations and educational backgrounds operate more successfully than those that do not limit employees to one demographic. The ability to find common ground where all stakeholders can contribute their strengths and weaknesses is a leadership responsibility that current business leaders must commit themselves to achieving.

In my opinion, another important skill for a leader is the ability to create better conversations. This begins with adopting a coaching approach as your primary leadership arsenal and developing coaching skills in all leaders who work under you. With good conversations, organizations can make significant progress.

As a leader, you must strive to create an inclusive culture in your organization. Generation Y and Z now seek fair and equal workplaces where gender does not determine how successful one can be. Doing so also secures the future of your business as it provides jobs for many generations to come.

After reading the first few items on this list, you might be looking ahead and thinking about difficult conversations that could be coming up. Read on for the leadership skills that could help you ease the discomfort.

7. Make Difficult Conversations Easy

Managing conflicts in the office and difficult conversations are vital for leaders. That is why many leadership training programs include conflict management. Undue bias, gender disparity, equality and just workplaces need open and transparent conversations. Leaders may be reluctant to confront deep-seeded biases that are part of their organizational culture, but working on yourself first increases your courage for resolving such issues in the workplace.This is where the inner voice of Captain is highly useful.

Holly Weeks’ book ‘Failures to Communicate’, states that leaders and managers often become ineffective communicators because of bad conversational habits. They wind up in difficult conversations with no plans for dealing with aggression or defensiveness, for example. Many leaders avoid difficult conversations because of a lack of courage or skills. Jean-Francois Manzoni, the President of IMD business school, said in Harvard Business Review article that ignoring difficult conversations and situations is not the right answer. One tip he gave to lessen this discomfort for both parties is to aim for a positive result. He stresses one thing: Results don’t happen when you do not address what’s really bothering people.

Some steps that can help you make difficult conversations easy:

  • State your intention
  • Name a mutually-beneficial goal
  • Listen
  • State facts, make no inference nor assumptions
  • Ask for suggestions about how to address the issue

You can consider learning coaching skills for managers. These skills have been transformational for my clients.

8. Manage Attention (not Time)

We hear time management all the time. In my opinion, attention management raises leaders’ performance far more than time management. As my clients’ seniority grows, the more important it becomes to manage their attention.

Prioritizing and focusing your attention on what’s most important to your strategy will give you the long-term strategic advantage. When I’m coaching clients, I always see positive results when they manage their attention better.

round silver colored wall clock
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Some key questions for your consideration:

  • How can you accomplish more with less time?
  • What’s your real responsibility as a leader?
  • How can you lead, influence and motivate an employee to show full commitment?
  • What strategic leadership development are you putting in place in your business so that employees can make decisions correctly independently in the long term?
  • How are you ensuring that your organization has a strong leadership core?

9. Empower Employees for Success

Delegation and empowerment might look like the same skill, but they are definitely not identical.

Delegating and empowering are both important when in a business environment, but have different functions. When delegating out tasks, it’s obligatory to assign people what they need to do. When you empower someone they become more motivated and creative. They learn from mistakes better and are more accountable which becomes an underrated trait in the workplace these days.

Here’s a quote by David Niven that defines empowerment more clearly: “True leadership strengthens the followers. It is a process of teaching, setting an example, and empowering others. If you seek to lead, your ability will ultimately be measured in the successes of those around you.”

Empowering employees is a key leadership skill that requires more than assigning tasks. Employees today want development that will build skills and careers, so every task you assign must serve this purpose.

To truly be an empowering leader, consider these questions as you review your next leadership development needs:

  • How will you delegate a task to develop your team or employee?
  • What support will this employee need from you in order to be successful?
  • What leadership skill will you or your managers need to develop?
  • What feedback will inform you that your employees are indeed, feeling empowered?
Enforcing vs Empowering from 8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility

I also recommend that you read the paradox Enforcing vs Empowering in my book, ‘8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility’ to get more ideas and work through the exercises.

10. Deliver Constructive Feedback

Do you like to constructive feedback? How often do you want to receive these? Perhaps a first question for you as you are reviewing your leadership development needs is: “What feedback will make my employees feel empowered?”

Constructive feedback should be specific, timely and recognize the good work that was done. When you are specific, you show that you are paying attention. Use growth mindset to frame constructive criticism in a positive light by saying something like, “I’ve noticed you doing this.. and I wonder what’s your thinking behind that. Will you share with me?”

Research has shown that constructive feedback works best for employees when you give them regularly and informally. That means, do not wait till the annual performance review to do that because that tends to feel more judgmental instead of being developmental.

Similar to communication skills, delivering constructive feedback is both art and science. Find the best time – you definitely do not want to do it during a company party or when an employee is dealing with a personal problem like a death in the family, a sickness, etc. One thing is certain – employees who are looking for growth will appreciate that you are noticing them and giving them regular, constructive feedback that helps them grow.

Effective Leadership Development Training Requires Intentional Design

All of these skills are necessary for effective leadership. They align with my Leadership Agility Framework and should be taken into consideration when you’re reviewing your programs to make sure they will help prepare your organization, business, etc., for success in the future. In your decision making process, carefully identify any gaps in skills or abilities in your existing programs and close the gaps. Ensure the new program you now design truly helps you develop your leadership pipeline because a strong core built upon the right vision, attitudes and mindset will future-proof your organization.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Take advantage of Chuen Chuen’s extensive experience coaching leaders worldwide and her deep expertise in designing agile leadership corporate training solutions for your teams. No matter which stage of leadership you are at, we can partner you and meet your business needs. Explore our executive coaching programs, corporate training courses or hire Chuen Chuen as your speaker so that your organisation will become agile and adaptive.

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