Organizations of any type or size need to have effective leaders on board. Even individual contributors in small organizations need to exhibit strong leadership skills. As organizations grow, of course, leadership skills become increasingly important.
Leaders play a critical role in ensuring that their teams have the tools, resources, and support to get their jobs done and contribute to organizational goals and effectiveness. In many cases, leaders are promoted from within.
Unfortunately, though, just because someone was a great individual contributor doesn’t mean they have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead others. That can be a problem. Organizations need effective leaders to ensure that all team members are working collectively together to meet common goals—and that they are engaged and productive in the process. Leadership training can help them accomplish these goals.
Why Does Leadership Matter?
Organizations get their work done through people—their human resources. But in order for people to get their work done effectively, they need solid leadership to ensure that they know what the company’s expectations are, that they have the support and resources to get their jobs done and that they get feedback along the way about what they’re doing well and where course correction may be needed.
Depending on the size and structure of an organization there may be few or many leaders. Regardless of how many leaders there are, though, all must be driving toward the same end results and delivering aligned and consistent messages and direction to their team members.
Effective leaders are able to draw upon the talents of their team members to drive superior results through innovation. That requires exceptional listening skills to ensure they are continually gathering input from employees and acting upon that input. They have a keen sense of accountability and the ability to build trust among their team members.
It’s not an easy job. And it’s not one that many have been explicitly trained for. In fact, as we’ve alluded to, in most organizations leaders are groomed from within. That means companies need to both look for, and nurture, certain leadership skills and attributes to help their companies run most effectively and to achieve their strategic priorities.
Here, we cover what effective leadership skills are and how they contribute to the success of an organization.
Effective Leadership Skills
Great leaders have the skills, capabilities, and competencies necessary to bring together a team of employees to achieve desired goals—and to ensure their engagement, commitment, and loyalty in the process. While leaders are not generally charged with doing the work themselves, they are responsible for getting the work done through others. That requires a number of critical skills that can be learned, nurtured, practiced, and improved over time.
Ask most people what the most important leadership skill is for effective leaders and, chances are, communication will be one of the first things you hear. In fact, communication underpins most of the other elements of effective leadership. Communication involves both the ability to convey information to others and to effectively listen to and understand the information received from others. Effective communication in organizations is critical for establishing shared goals, managing progress and providing feedback, and dealing with any barriers or conflicts that might emerge along the way.
The best leaders don’t do—they delegate. But delegating isn’t just about giving people work. There’s far more involved in effective delegation. Being an effective delegator means greater productivity and better outcomes for those you lead, and the organization as a whole. Effective delegation ensures that organizations are maximizing their human resources and getting work done as efficiently, effectively, and economically as possible.
Work of any kind isn’t simply about doing—it’s about achieving results. Leaders are accountable for developing and guiding teams to achieve certain desired outcomes. Leaders must be accountable to those outcomes and, in turn, must hold their team members accountable for their work in order for departments and organizations to perform at their best.
Leaders must earn the respect of those they lead. Employees will be far less likely to put forth effort in support of a leader they don’t respect and far more likely to go above and beyond for leaders who have earned their respect. We all listen more closely to people we respect, and we trust those who we believe have our best interests at heart.
Empathy involves the ability to understand and share the feelings and perspectives of others. Having empathy for employees, as a leader, means having the ability to recognize what matters to employees, what motivates them, and what concerns them. It also means knowing how to provide the right kind of support, encouragement, coaching, and counseling to help them achieve their goals and the organizations’ goals.
Any time two or more people are working together there will be conflict. Conflict is inevitable in any organization. Managing conflict effectively is a key leadership skill that can help employees overcome obstacles, build relationships and work together collectively to achieve shared goals.
Critical thinking involves analyzing and interpreting information or situations to make informed decisions, even when these inputs may be conflicting or ambiguous. Being able to think critically impacts leaders’ ability to plan, make decisions and provide guidance to their teams.
Problem-solving involves clearly and accurately defining a problem, identifying the root causes of the problem, and working with others to find various alternatives and, ultimately, a solution to the problem. Leaders with solid problem-solving skills help organizations be more effective, productive, and profitable.
Developing a Great Leader
It is clear that the many attributes of effective leadership represent a best practice “wish list” for companies of all kinds. These are not skills or characteristics that leaders automatically bring into their roles. In fact, as we’ve said, most leaders promoted from within will likely be lacking in one or more of these skills. Developing great leaders means providing them with the information, resources, and opportunities for application that can help them develop, hone, and refine their leadership skills.
The Leadership Journey takes a practical approach to help organizations develop effective leaders. Our leadership training program for supervisors and managers is focused on 10 core leadership skills. Content is delivered in brief, bite-sized courses focused on the critical “how-to” leadership practices that will turn all of your current, and potential, leaders into high-performing leaders.