We’ve updated this popular article with more key skills leaders need in today’s environment!
Leadership skills are essential for every individual in an organisation, whether they manage a team or not. In this article we will look at seven core skills leaders need today and how you can help your people develop them.
Fearless leaders are willing to push the boundaries, try new things and pave the way for more effective ways of working. Without fearlessness, organisations can easily become stuck in deep-rooted processes that don’t work, or fade into obscurity out of failing to do anything new that sets them apart from competitors.
It’s important to foster a culture where individuals have the freedom to try new ideas. This goes further than simply letting employees make suggestions, these ideas must actually be carefully considered and acted on when appropriate. Over time this sets an example that everyone should feel safe to express their ideas and that they will be listened to if they do so.
No surprises here, leaders need a clear direction or vision to focus their efforts, as well as the efforts of their team. Even if the leader themselves has a clear vision, this is fruitless if their team members do not have their own clear goals to help them contribute.
Ensure all leaders have access to a tool to set cascadable goals and allow their team to set and track complementary goals. This will help provide a clear direction for everyone and measure progress to hold teams accountable.
While the shared vision of a team should stay consistent over time, the tactics used to achieve this vision will inevitably need to pivot and shift in response to different environmental factors. Leaders who have the ability to be agile and adapt to situations will be able to guide their teams to success even when challenges arise.
Workplaces that prioritise outcomes over tactics and give employees permission to try new things are the best environment to foster agile leaders. Open communication and continuous feedback will also help leaders identify when change is needed and keep their team up to date with what needs to happen.
In order to make these decisions on the fly, leaders need to be data-driven and know how to base their next decision on relevant statistics. When leaders are delayed in choosing their next move, businesses can lose competitive advantage or miss out on opportunities.
It’s imperative that leaders have access to real-time data that can advise them to make strategic decisions, ideally via an easy to use dashboard. This relies on an organisation-wide commitment to gather data in a central platform so everyone can access the key business insights they require.
With all of this information available at our fingertips today, it’s no longer acceptable to ignore what your data is telling you, and make decisions based on a gut feeling or simply repeat the way things have always been done. All leaders in a business should be able to think strategically and be in a position to make data driven decisions. Organisations can benefit massively from giving different leaders a seat at the table to contribute to the bigger picture vision and direction of the business. This will also make it easier for your leaders to communicate and help align your broader team with the organisation’s strategic objectives.
Once you’re capturing the data you need, it’s vital this can be presented in a way that actually helps your leaders gain valuable insights. Look for systems with easy to use dashboards, that do all the analysis for you, so leaders can simply log in and get the information they need to confidently make decisions and think long-term.
One of the biggest skills that sets apart true leaders from the average manager is emotional intelligence or EQ. With EQ, leaders can really understand their team members and look under the surface to identify deeper issues that might be affecting them positively or negatively at work. Leaders with a high EQ can also communicate better with the people around them as they understand how to appeal to different personality types and use the right methods of communication to get their message across.
Before any manager is hired or an employee is promoted to a management role, emotional intelligence should be considered as a non-negotiable skill the individual must possess. Emotional intelligence is usually an innate skill but it can be further developed over time with the right training. A leader’s EQ can be measured through testing, and those who do lack emotional intelligence should be supported with relevant training to hone this skill.
On top of emotional intelligence, general communication skills are a must for all leaders. In addition to understanding the best method of communication to use with different people, good leaders also prioritise timeliness and inclusion. This means always distributing key information as quickly as possible and sharing it with all relevant stakeholders in an equitable way. It also means having a channel to communicate with team members one on one and creating a safe environment for them to speak to you directly and in private if they need to.
The right tools can make it much easier for leaders to communicate fairly to their teams. Having a team Slack channel or similar can be a good way to share quick updates with your whole team and ensure everyone has access to the same information. Tools like pulses can also be used to send regular check-in forms to employees and ask how they are going. The responses to these should be available to relevant managers and be followed up with a face to face catch up between a manager and each of their direct reports every one or to weeks.
One person simply can’t do it all. As company goals become increasingly ambitious, leaders need to tap into different skill sets of those around them to make things happen. Importantly, leaders must see team members with different skills as a compliment to their strengths, not a threat to their authority.
As with vision sharing, dynamic goal setting also fosters collaboration by allowing leaders to cascade goals and strategic alignment to team members, thereby delegating work while still contributing. These shared goals allow leaders and those in their teams to individually contribute to goals through their own personal strengths.
None of the aforementioned skills mean a thing if they are not underpinned by honesty and integrity. Employees must ultimately be able to trust their leaders and be confident they will follow through on what they say and be consistent.
While honesty and integrity are usually innate qualities, there are some external factors we can control to help foster integrity and consistency and limit people turning to dishonest means. Workplaces that set realistic performance expectations and reward measured risk-taking (even if it doesn’t always produce results) are typically environments that allow honest leaders to thrive.
These are the core skills we believe are needed for today’s leaders in the workplace. What skills do you think are important for leaders? Let us know in the comments.