To lead successfully, individuals need a particular skillset. Luckily, the skills that are required to become an effective leader can all be learned and practiced. However, it is not always immediately obvious which skills are crucial to good leadership.
The following is an overview of some of the essential skills and attributes of great leaders. Individuals in leadership positions should strive to identify their strengths and weaknesses in these areas, and in turn, create a strategic plan for addressing any flaws and developing assets even further.
Leaders largely set the ethical tone for the organization. However, honesty goes beyond ethics. Through honesty, individuals build credibility, humility, and integrity. Lies, no matter how small, will eventually be revealed—and the results could be disastrous. When employees feel like they cannot trust their leader, they lose faith in the vision of the company and can become quite unmotivated. On the other hand, a leader who admits to faults, failures, and setbacks sets a high bar for the rest of the company. Addressing these issues directly and moving on from them shows employees that such problems are a natural part of business and should not drag down morale. Companies thrive when their culture teaches them to learn from mistakes rather than wallow in regret.
No one can accomplish everything on their own. When leaders try to take on too much responsibility, tasks are completed haphazardly or are altogether forgotten, to the detriment of the entire company. For this reason, delegation is essential. Delegation involves more than just assigning tasks to people. To delegate effectively, leaders need to recognize the personal strengths of various team members and assign tasks accordingly.
Also, delegating tasks makes employees feel involved and important. Assigning a task to an employee demonstrates trust in them, which can boost confidence and inspire even better performances in the future.
Not all leaders are confident all the time, yet it is important that they exude some level of confidence regardless of how they feel inside. When leaders lose their confidence, employees pick up on this feeling and become unmotivated themselves. After all, if the leader no longer believes in the vision, then why should they? Leaders have a responsibility to maintain morale and put out fires without making a big deal about them. Setbacks happen, but a leader can radically change the tone by keeping the organization focused on the larger goals. Calm and confident leaders keep their teams performing at their peak. Remember: teams take their cues from the leader, so individuals in this position must constantly think about the image they are projecting.
Closely related to the idea of confidence is positivity. Negative leaders will leave teams feeling deflated whereas positivity can energize people and motivate them to work harder. Leaders can maintain a positive atmosphere in a number of different ways. Giving personal and group praise, when deserved, can help employees feel appreciated, but so can bringing snacks into the office from time to time. When certain employees are feeling down or upset, taking the time to ask about what is going on, even it involves their personal life, can demonstrate how much the leader cares and do a lot for morale. Importantly, when people feel happy and upbeat, they are much more likely to go the extra mile or stay the extra hour to get a task done.
When leaders innovate and lead their teams into unexplored territories, they do not have a roadmap of how to get where they want to be. In these situations, leaders need to have a strong intuition that they can trust. In some ways, intuition is inborn, but it is also something that can be developed over time by engaging in tasks that require critical thinking, learning as much as possible about the market and current technologies, and embracing creativity. With this sort of practice, leaders put themselves in a good position to make an informed decision when something unexpected occurs. Leaders need to learn to trust themselves. In turn, their teams will trust them.
Great leaders are involved with the quotidian operations of the organization while remaining aware of how each task gets them closer to larger strategic goals. When leaders have a clear vision of the future, they can communicate that vision to their employees and get them just as excited for what is to come. Strategic planning involves anticipation of where the market and the industry are headed and a clear vision of how the organization will change and adapt. Importantly, strategic planning also involves thinking about contingency plans should something go wrong. Great leaders cover all their bases so that they have a new strategy ready when it becomes clear that the current plan will not work.