What Are Leadership Skills? [+ How To Get Them]

Influential leaders are a pillar of any organization.

They motivate employees, help them feel empowered in their skills, and, in turn, build strong teams that consistently meet business goals and contribute to overall business success.

Assuming a leadership role is often an end goal for many business people. If you’re hoping to get there one day and want to know how you can succeed, or you’re hoping to improve your skills, this post will explain what leadership skills are, outline how you can develop them, and learn how to display your skills on a resume to stand out amongst your competitors.

→ Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh  Shah [Free Guide].

Leadership skills are essential for a business because they drive success. Strong leaders ensure that employees are equipped with the tools and resources to succeed, unify teams to create a culture of togetherness, and delegate and communicate responsibilities and wins to all involved stakeholders.

As an individual, leadership skills are important because they help you in all aspects of your career. You’ll know how to take ownership of your job responsibilities, communicate effectively, and work with others to reach a common goal. If you possess leadership skills but are not yet in a leadership role, demonstrating these skills will signal to employers that you can be a strong leader, which sets you apart from other applicants.

Examples of Leadership Skills

While not an exhaustive list, the skills below are examples of abilities that effective leaders have.

  • Communication: A leader needs to communicate effectively and clearly with stakeholders, employees, and all involved teams. Additional skills that support effective communication are active listening, clarity, concision, and persuasion.
  • Strategic thinking: Leaders must be strategic thinkers who can understand business goals and develop processes specifically to help meet them.
  • People management: As leaders lead people, they must manage groups and help them succeed. People management skills can include communication, active listening, working collaboratively, team building, empathy, giving feedback, and delegating responsibility.
  • Motivation: Leaders must be self-motivated when it comes to hitting targets and performing their job duties. You also must motivate your teams and help them feel empowered and able to achieve business goals. Commitment is a skill that strongly relates to motivation.
  • Flexibility: Things can change quickly for a business, and leaders must be flexible and able to face changes in the market, employee turnover, or any issues that arise. Being able to think strategically is a skill that strongly relates to being flexible.
  • Reliability: People look up to leaders, so they must be reliable. Your teams want to know and trust that you’re giving them the tools they need to succeed, and higher-ups want to trust that you will meet the goals set out for you. Additional skills related to reliability are trustworthiness, integrity, timeliness, and the ability to take the initiative.
  • Ability to mentor and teach: One of the most important things for a leader to do is mentor and teach employees and help them develop their professional skills. Related skills include helpfulness, giving positive reinforcement, understanding employee differences, and providing constructive feedback.
  • Decisiveness: Leaders must be able to confidently and decisively make informed decisions on critical business matters. Additional skills that support decisiveness are motivation, problem-solving, strategic thinking, and communication.
  • Ability to give and receive feedback: People look to leaders for guidance, so it’s critical to be able to provide feedback to employees for their development and for you to be able to receive feedback from others.

Most Important Leadership Skills

Although various skills can make someone a successful leader, a few are more critical than others. We’ll discuss two of them below.

1. Communication

Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer found that employees ranked good communication as a critical skill for leaders. As such, communication is a vital leadership skill.

The skill relates to all aspects of your job performance, as you need to be able to communicate expectations to employees, delegate job duties, and provide feedback. You also need to communicate performance with stakeholders and higher-ups, so they understand the success of your processes.

A leader unable to effectively communicate will likely find themselves leading teams that are confused about expectations, unaware of their performance, and unsure about their day-to-day tasks. In addition, higher-ups will have difficulty understanding why you’re implementing your processes and how teams are performing concerning meeting targets.

2. Ability to Mentor and Teach

A key component of leadership is being able to lead.

This means mentoring teams, empowering them, and helping people develop the skills they need to succeed at their jobs. Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of HubSpot, says that leadership isn’t necessarily dictated by a job title but how someone focuses on lifting up and empowering those around them.

most important leadership skill quote from Dharmesh Shah that reads "True leaders have a quiet confidence and focus on lifting up those around them"

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A leader that is a good mentor also creates an environment of trust and collaboration with their employees. This can make people feel more comfortable approaching you with questions or assistance when they need guidance.

Some additional skills that are strongly associated with being a good mentor and teacher are helpfulness, the ability to see different perspectives and level with your employees, patience, clear communication, and the ability to communicate instructions and provide actionable feedback.

How To Develop Leadership Skills

One of the best ways to develop leadership skills is through experience, whether it is on-the-job, external activities, or even in a position of leadership. Let’s go over some ways to develop these skills:

  • Leverage resources like books, podcasts, and content from thought leaders and those with a history of leadership experience and a wealth of knowledge to share.
  • Participate in courses, workshops, and training opportunities where experienced leaders teach leadership skills and share their expertise.
  • Follow other leaders that you feel inspired by, study their practices, and implement some of their strategies into your day-to-day.
  • Seek out leadership opportunities in all areas of your life. For example, if you’re part of a community group, consider taking a leadership role if the opportunity arises, or create a group and gain leadership experience through building it from the ground up.
  • Recognize that it is a continuous process, and leaders are constantly learning and developing their skills. Therefore, be open to continuous learning, and seek out opportunities that allow you to build your skills.

How To Improve Leadership Skills

Whether you’re a seasoned leader or starting in your first leadership role, there is always room for improvement. Let’s go over some of the ways you can continue to build upon your leadership skills.

Have a mentor.

Having a mentor allows you to learn from someone that has more leadership experience than you. Some businesses have mentorship programs where you can shadow a leader at work and observe their practices, and bring their tips and tricks into your own day-to-day life. A mentor can also observe your performance and give you actionable feedback on how to improve.

Take the initiative.

It will be challenging to improve your skills if you’re not actively seeking opportunities to practice them. So, take the initiative in your current position and ask for additional responsibilities, or step into leadership roles as they become available.

For example, if your workplace creates a new employee group, offer to take the leadership role. You may feel a bit out of your comfort zone, but it will give you valuable hands-on experience that will help you perfect your skills. In addition, people you work with will likely be willing to provide feedback on your leadership, giving you additional growth opportunities.

Focus on specific skill areas.

If there are specific areas of leadership that you feel need improvement, focus on them. For example, you can request more responsibility in particular areas, so you have real-life practice with those skills.

Having a mentor can be helpful in this regard, as they can shadow you at work and monitor you to identify specific areas that may be causing you to struggle. For instance, if you’ve heard from employees that they’re sometimes confused about instructions, you may struggle with communication. A mentor could sit in on a conversation with a team member to get a sense of your conversation style and work with you to create a plan of action to improve.

Once you’ve worked to develop and improve your leadership skills, how do you share this when seeking out job opportunities? Your resume.

Leadership Skills on a Resume

Knowing how to leverage your leadership skills on a resume can be challenging. While you can certainly list the skills you have that make you a good leader, recruiters and hiring managers often want to see results that prove and support your abilities.

The most important thing to keep in mind when listing leadership skills on a resume is to ensure that you’re including skills relevant to the job description you’re applying for so it is explicitly clear to readers how you’ll succeed at the job.

Here are some ways to showcase your leadership skills on a resume:

1. List your skills.

The easiest thing to do is simply include a list of the leadership skills you have that are relevant to the role based on the job description. The image below is an example of a simple list of job-relevant skills on a resume.

example of bulleted list of leadership skills on a resume

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2. Demonstrate your leadership skills in action.

Another way to display your leadership skills on your resume is to show how you’ve used them to achieve results in your previous position. This can look like using quantifiable data and metrics that demonstrate how you’ve created success, and the image below is a great example of this.

example of leadership skills in action on a marketing resume

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3. List awards and achievements.

Another way to showcase your leadership capabilities is to include a list of achievements, awards, or honors that you’ve received for being a strong leader. Here are two examples of what that could look like on a resume:

  • Three-time recipient of [Your company name] Leadership Award.
  • Nominated recipient of the Great Manager Award.

Everyone Can Be A Leader

There are no specifications as to who can and can’t become a leader — it’s possible for everyone. If you leverage the tips on this list to develop your own leadership abilities and actively seek out opportunities for growth, you’ll find yourself in a position to inspire others and help businesses succeed.

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