Top 10 Leadership Skills

In this article, we’ll be reviewing our Top 10 leadership skills.

These are the skills that which we consider crucial in helping you become an outstanding leader.

In this article, we’ll cover

What are leadership skills?

Rather than a singular key skill, leadership requires a range of varied skills.  

Mastering these skills supports a series of duties from directing and coordinating a team, through to helping to define the culture of your organization. 

If you have a leadership role or are seeking one, understanding these skills help you:

  • Interact & Communicate with stakeholders
  • Deliver Efficiency & Effectiveness
  • Achieve your goals

Why are leadership skills important

Effective leadership makes an organization thrive.

Leadership defines strategy, establishes culture, and it mobilizes and motivates a team to achieve the organization’s goals.

Without the knowledge of a broad range of skills, and the ability to deploy them, those in leadership roles will flounder.

Without effective leadership, businesses place themselves under significant risk.

So what are essential leadership skills?  

We’ve put the following list together to explain:

  • What those skills are, 
  • Why we think they are important and 
  • What aspects of those skills you’ll need to learn.

Top 10 Leadership Skills

1/ Communication Skills

Perhaps the number one leadership skill is the ability to communicate.  

Communication skills facilitate information being passed between stakeholders, whether that’s within the organization or outside it.

Excellent communication is imperative for an organization to thrive, providing direction and clarity.

There is a range of communication skills that those in leadership roles need to master; these include:

  • Listening
  • Facilitation
  • Being clear and concise
  • Non-Verbal Communication skills
  • Verbal & Written styles of communication
  • Presenting & Explaining
  • Written communication
  • Public speaking

Rarely is one form of communication used in isolation, and the above is not an exhaustive list. There are many forms of communication, and typically any number of these methods can be used in combination at any one time. 

As a result, those in leadership roles need to master a broad range of communication methods and techniques. 

Are they all equally important? Well, personally, people often overlook listening. For me, listening is crucial; it can help provide a make or break link to what is happening vs. your plan.  

Without effective communication skills, the organization is likely to suffer a range of problems. These are likely to range in people not fully understanding what they should be doing on a day to day basis through to being unable to grasp the organization’s strategy.

2/ Problem Solving Skills

We’ve already written significantly on the importance of problem-solving (check out our problem-solving guide here).  

We think it’s perhaps the number one business skill those in leadership roles need to master. 

Despite our best endeavors, problems occur frequently, and we require the knowledge of a range of skills and techniques that enable the organization to resolve them.

These problem-solving skills include:

  • Analysis.
  • Communication
  • Decision making
  • Root cause analysis
  • Creative thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Stakeholder management

There is a range of problem-solving tools associated with these skills that those in senior roles will need to become familiar with.

3/ Relationship building skills

Relationship skills determine how you relate to other stakeholders, across your business (inside and out), and how effective those interactions are.

Relationships are crucial within a business; they help:

  • Teams become effective
  • Drive engagement on projects and activities
  • Improve Job Satisfaction and retention

Relationship building is a set of skills that can be learned.

These skills include:

  1. Being cognisant of relationship needs.
  2. Being appreciative
  3. Managing boundaries
  4. Transparency
  5. Regard & respect
  6. Gaining trust

4/ Innovation

Innovation isn’t just the introduction of new products.  

Innovation can mean introducing change, new methods, processes, new strategies, new markets, tools & equipment.   

Change happens whether you like it or not, without innovation, businesses stagnate.  

Innovation drives several benefits.

  • Productivity
  • Competitiveness
  • Lower costs
  • New products
  • New markets
  • Greater added value

The skills around innovation are complex.  

It is often led by a significant focus on creativity, collaboration, and project management.  

Leadership’s principal responsibility is to foster a culture that encourages and rewards innovation within the organization.

5/ Change Management

Change happens in all industries and environments.  

Change management plays a vital role in providing the tools and techniques that help businesses prepare and execute their strategies and change plans.

Without effective change management, businesses open themselves to a variety of risks.  

These risks can affect market share and, if ignored, threaten the very existence of the business itself. 

Key skills that drive change management include:

  • Strategic Thinking
  • Risk Management
  • Communication & Engagement
  • Planning & Execution
  • Facilitation

6/ People Management

At its heart, an organization relies on its people.  

Without people, it cannot create products, find markets, support customers.

For the organization to be effective, it needs, through its leadership, to maximize its return on this vital resource.  

It does this through strategies such as:

  • Direction
  • Encouragement 
  • Sustained focus against goals
  • Its ability to listen

Great people management skills can be the difference between a team that is underperforming and one that excels.

Teams that are led by individuals with poor people management skills are often fraught with frustration, confusion, and ultimately poor performance.

People management contains a range of soft skills including

  • Facilitation
  • Providing direction
  • Trust building
  • Motivational
  • Communication

7/ Delegation skills

Successful leaders recognize that they can’t do everything themselves.

Getting the most from a team requires effective delegation.

Delegation is where tasks are flowed out to individuals within the team/organization.

Poorly executed delegation can result in poor performance and confusion.

Effective delegation is not merely throwing a task at a subordinate, and expecting them to deliver it requires careful thought. You cannot assume that a colleague being delegated too magically knows precisely how to do it. 

The power of delegation is that it helps flow tasks into the organization, getting the most out of the team, and driving effectiveness.

Delegation skills include:

  • Defining a task
  • Using information and data
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Setting expectations
  • Supporting staff
  • Following up/Closing out

8/ Motivational skills

Motivational skills are activities or plans that generate a positive response from stakeholders (i.e., employees, teams, customers, suppliers).  

They increase the likelihood of achieving positive results.    

While motivation is often thought of within the context of management or leadership, it is not tied just to those positions. In fact, anyone can use motivational techniques.

For those in Leadership roles, the use of motivation can go beyond one individual and target the motivation of larger groups such as teams (or the whole organization).

Such motivational skills usually include:

  • Goal setting
  • Communication
  • Facilitate the shift to peoples optimum motivation
  • Learning
  • Recognition

9/ Integrity

Integrity is the discipline of being aligned to strong values (be they moral, ethical, or specific company values) whilst also maintaining a strong sense of honesty.

Leader’s words and actions, help form an organization’s culture and values.  

Where leadership lack integrity, this is often mirrored within the organization. The result can adversely impact performance and the stature of the company in the marketplace.

Key skills relating to integrity include:

  • Relationship building
  • Trust
  • Consistency
  • Honesty

10/ Planning skills

The final skill in our list is planning.  

The ability to organize, manage and track activities in order to achieve goals underpin the success of an organization.  

Great planning provides a road map for the organization. Without it, the company can flounder.

Planning might be on an individual, departmental, or organizational basis and may require few or many resources.

Planning skills include:

  • Decision making
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Strategic thinking
  • Goal setting 
  • Delegation

How to Develop Leadership Skills

Now we have identified a range of leadership skills how do we go about learning and practicing them?

While some people are natural leaders, for most, there will be a need to develop skills.

The good news is that these skills can be learned and improved over time.

Here are a few ideas on how this can be achieved.

1/ Practice   

Having gained an understanding of each skill, the key method to achieve excellence is, of course, practice. Taking on activities and projects that enable you to utilize these leadership skills, practicing, and honing them.

2/ Follow others

Watch how others in leadership roles utilize the skills that we’ve discussed. What do they do well, what don’t they do well. How can you use this learning to develop yourself?

3/ Mentoring

Mentors can help twofold:

a) They can teach techniques and skills

b) They can provide coaching, imparting knowledge on what is done well, and what areas of your leadership can be improved.

4/ Utilize feedback

Listening to feedback is perhaps the key development tool you have at your disposal. Don’t just seek feedback from other leaders but seek it out from subordinates in your team. What in their experience has helped them, and what have you done that hasn’t.  

What can you do better next time?

5/ Test yourself, don’t take the easy route

Doing easy things will not help you develop.  

Don’t look for easy projects/tasks. This will not develop your skillset.  

Place yourself in situations that are taxing, where you will need the skills we have described.


We hope you enjoyed this article on key leadership skills. Hopefully, you’ve taken away some ideas on how you can develop your own skills.

As ever we’d love some feedback, perhaps you’ve got some leadership experiences you’d like to share that helped you develop your skills? We’d love to hear about them.

As ever, you can message us on twitter or provide feedback in the comments section below.

This article is part of our Management and Leadership Guide.