10 Types of Leadership Skills You Need to Lead

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What type of leader are you?

Do you motivate and inspire others to reach their full potential? Or, are you more concerned about the title and rank that comes with being a leader?

The types of leadership skills needed today are less about being on top and what you’re doing, and more about human attributes and who you’re being.

Organizations are feeling this disconnect, as evident in Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report. More than half of the executives surveyed believe their companies are not ready to meet their leadership needs. Coincidentally, over 90 percent rated soft skills as a critical priority.

Some people naturally have some of these human-centered skills that contribute to their ability in leading self, and leading others. But, for the most part, leaders are not born, they’re made. It comes from a combination of work and life experiences, ups and downs, taking action, and most importantly, ongoing learning and development.

To help you work on the human side of leadership, here are 10 types of leadership skills and actions to put into practice.

1. Empathy

Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is the ability to recognize and understand another person’s point of view and feelings.

Simply put, put yourself in their shoes. Or, as Dartmouth College Assistant Professor Devin Singh puts it in the video below, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”

With empathy, you can reach and motivate others, create stronger interpersonal relationships at work, and lead more productive and effective teams.

You can work on this leadership skill through self-reflection and by routinely asking yourself if you understand how others are feeling, or, are you oblivious to what’s going on. Practicing empathy can be as easy as making the time to connect with people on your team, genuinely asking how they feel about a situation, and listening.

2. Adaptability

According to a LinkedIn survey of hiring managers released last year, adaptability is one of the top 10 most sought-after soft skills among employers.

Leaders need to be flexible, take changes in stride, and move forward with a positive mindset.

It’s not always easy to embrace changes and adapt. But, the more you work at it and focus on solutions versus problems, the more your team will appreciate your ability to quickly adjust to new situations and expectations. Especially in a dynamic and fast-paced environment where change is constant.

If you’re struggling to adapt or anxious about upcoming changes, try to avoid thinking about them for 24-48 hours to release the anxiety. Then, come back to it when your reaction to change is less emotionally charged.

3. Communication

Day-in and day-out, our work revolves around communications. That’s why consistent and transparent communications in all forms – presentations, team meetings, one-on-one conversations, client emails, etc. – is one of the most important types of leadership skills.

The reality is that effective communication involves a lot of self-awareness and a variety of different skill sets, like being assertive, separating feelings from facts, picking up on non-verbal cues, and being aware of your body language.

It’s a lot to take in all at once, but the more you know yourself and know your audience, and the more you engage in conversations and strive to learn what is important to others, the better your communications will be as a leader.

4. Listening

Listening is just as important as your communications. It’s a critical leadership skill that can build rapport, trust and understanding between you and your employees.

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach that led his team to 10 NCAA national championships, said it best in the book “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court“:

“If you wish to be heard, listen.”

Between emails, texts, phone calls and meetings, you’re bombarded by messages every day. And sometimes, you might not be giving people your full attention. Or, you’re simply unaware of how you might be dominating a conversation.

To practice and develop your listening skills, make it a point to fully understand before being understood, and hold off on sharing your ideas until you fully explore theirs.

5. Problem-Solving

Recruiting professionals rank problem-solving as the most important type of leadership skill for senior-level positions, according to a 2017 study by iCIMS.

The most effective leaders in the workplace are great problem-solvers. They test their creativity, communicate transparently, facilitate open-minded conversations, and take proactive measures to manage conflicts when they arise. Great leaders view problems as challenges to overcome, and not as barriers.

When faced with a problem, it never hurts to get an outside opinion from a mentor or someone you trust. To put that into action, summarize the problem for someone who is not involved and get their recommendation on how you might resolve the matter. Sometimes a person outside of the workplace can help you think through the issue in a new way.

6. Collaboration

As one of the types of leadership skills you need to succeed, collaboration gives you the ability to work with others and achieve a common goal. That should be the purpose of every team.

Collaboration involves human connection that gives your team a sense of belonging. Your success as a leader hinders on your teams’ success. Effective leaders understand this and know that true collaboration requires trust and a personal commitment to working together.

One way to practice more collaboration is to involve your team during the creation process, not after the fact when things are already set in motion. This can be a great motivator and give them a shared sense of purpose and accountability in the end outcome.

A friendly personality also goes a long way toward working together. Just watch the video below to hear what IBM learned about people and collaboration.

7. Coaching

As a leader, one of your biggest responsibilities is to manage your teams’ performance and motivate employees. That’s why coaching is one of the skills you need to be an effective leader in the workplace.

In fact, 21 percent of HR professionals believe coaching is directly tied to employee performance, while 45 percent say coaching is “very important” at their organization, according to the SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey released in 2016.

Just like communications, coaching involves a variety of different leadership skills, like providing support and giving constructive and ongoing feedback—and not waiting for an annual review to have an open discussion about performance.

Unfortunately, most leaders don’t spend enough time helping people learn and grow, which is what employees want more of these days.

To make coaching an active part of your leadership style, start by asking your team what areas they could use help or support with. Some people are hesitant to ask for help and you may need to ask more than once to ensure they are comfortable sharing where they could use help to improve.

8. Organization

Organization is a skill that often gets overlooked. Yet, it’s one of the essential types of leadership skills needed to succeed.

Part of managing up and down and being an effective leader is the ability to set clear goals, prioritize, delegate, multi-task, adapt, and manage your time. When a leader has poor organizational skills and lacks self-management, it reflects poorly on team members and can create chaos and poor outcomes.

If organizational skills and time management are not in your leadership forte, try making a to-do list every morning. This will help you to set priorities for the day and give you a better understanding of how planning is a critical aspect of managing time effectively.

9. Accountability

Former President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here.” It was an overt way of saying he won’t “pass the buck” to anybody and accepts personal accountability for his decisions, and the decisions of his administration.

Accountable leaders take responsibility for outcomes in all situations, good or bad. They play an active leadership role in driving resolution and do not blame others when things go wrong. You take ownership of your performance and more importantly, the performance of your team. Just as President Truman did.

Accountability starts with you. And, when leaders take responsibility, it can have an outward effect on their team and help create a culture of trust and accountability, as executive coach and SurePeople’s EVP of Culture & Analytics James Brooks shares in the video below.

10. Trustworthy

Research published by Harvard Business Review and conducted by Dr. Sunny Giles, the president of Quantum Leadership Group, showed that “high ethical and moral standards” is the most important leadership competency.

Having integrity, being honest and inspiring trust are all cornerstones of great leadership. Your team needs to feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns, and confident that you won’t breach their trust. As a moral compass at the workplace and someone they turn to, you need to be respectful and trustworthy to earn their respect and trust.

Here are some actions to you can take to help create a safe and comfortable environment while letting your team know you’re a trustworthy leader:

  • Uphold a dependable track record of delivering on commitments. Be reliable by always doing what you’ve agreed to and learn when to say no to commitments to stay accountable.
  • Trust others have good intentions. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they’re trying to do the right thing even though they’re methods may be different than yours.
  • Strive to be honest and transparent while consistently working to open lines of communication.

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