Important leadership skills and how to develop them

5 min read

Career Trends: August 9, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Being a good leader requires us to polish up multiple skills at once.

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Leadership is a vital management function that helps to direct an organisation’s resources for improved efficiency and the achievement of goals. In our rapidly changing workplaces, leadership will apply to more people than ever before. You may be overseeing a project that requires you to coordinate several team members. Or you may be a gig worker collaborating with other gig workers. Or you may be occupying a traditional management role.

It is especially important for students to experience leadership opportunities. It helps them to learn the art of building relationships within teams, defining identities, and achieving tasks effectively. It also provides an opportunity to learn to identify and display effective communication and interpersonal skills.

Of course, being a good leader really requires us to polish up multiple skills at once.

Here are some essential leadership skills and how to develop them:

1. Motivating others

  • The ability to motivate others is all part of inspiring people to be the best they can be.
  • Ensure that people know how their role contributes to the project or venture.
  • Be clear on what you need people to do, why, and when.
  • But, importantly, give people the autonomy to accomplish those tasks their way and show your appreciation.

2. Fostering potential

  • Great leaders look for potential, not performance.
  • Let people know that it’s okay to fail sometimes. This is all part of inspiring people to take risks, step outside their comfort zone and test new ideas.
  • Encourage them to develop their skills and think about the next stage of their career, whatever that may be.

3. Inspiring trust

  • Being ethical makes a leader trustworthy.
  • This means being honest and transparent, keeping promises, and generally making sure you follow your own projected values.
  • Stand up for what you believe in.

4. Taking on and giving up responsibility

  • Good leaders take on responsibility, but they also know when to let go of responsibility and delegate to others.
  • Play to the strengths of those around you and allocate responsibility accordingly.
  • Ensure people have the knowledge, resources, and tools they need to succeed.
  • Decide how you’ll monitor progress without micromanaging. For example, you can agree on how the person will report back to you and how often – as well as the best way for them to raise any questions.

5. Thinking strategically

  • Strategic thinking requires leaders to take a wider view, so they can solve problems and make a long-term plan for the future.
  • Remember the difference between urgent and important.
  • Constantly remind yourself of your priorities, and manage your time accordingly.
  • Use critical thinking to gather data and find solutions to your most pressing strategic questions.

6. Setting goals and expectations for everyone

  • Setting goals is a great way to drive performance. But have you considered a more dynamic way of setting goals?
  • Instead of the traditional, top-down approach (where leadership sets strategic goals, then managers set goals for teams and individuals), you might like to consider the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) approach.
  • With OKRs, leadership sets some strategic OKRs for the business, then each team and individual designs their own OKRs that contribute to achieving the company’s strategic OKRs.

7. Giving (and receiving) feedback

  • Good leaders are able to give and receive feedback, both positive and constructive.
  • Have a process in place for regular catchups, where you can chat through progress and give feedback.
  • Don’t dilute constructive feedback with praise.
  • When you sandwich negative comments with a positive comment on either side, there’s a risk the person may only hear the good stuff.
  • Treat feedback as a straightforward conversation, using specific, concrete examples instead of opinions or emotions.

8. Team building

  • Remember, each person will bring their unique skills and experiences, be motivated by different things, have different working styles, and so on.
  • Embrace this diversity instead of trying to get everyone to behave the same way.
  • Model the behaviours you want to see: connecting as human beings, showing an interest, listening to each other, treating people with respect and dignity, and supporting one another.

9. Positivity

  • Think carefully about the language you use, verbally and in writing.
  • Use words with positive connotations – turning a “problem” into an “opportunity” being a prime example.
  • Celebrate successes, both big and small. Highlighting the little wins frequently can be just as impactful as sporadically celebrating the big wins.

10. Authenticity

  • Practice self-awareness. A good leader is aware of their weaknesses as well as their strengths.
  • Be open about those weaknesses rather than trying to hide them.
  • Bring your whole self to work, as opposed to having one persona for work and one outside of work.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

How mastering important soft skills can help you supercharge your career

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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