The Top Workplace Leadership Skills

Leadership comes in many forms. Whether you’re a people manager, executive, or individual contributor, you need strong leadership qualities to advance your career and make a difference in your organization.

It can be difficult to determine exactly what makes a good leader. In fact, effective leadership is often spoken of in a nebulous, vague way. So let’s dive into the actual skills that make effective leaders and how you or your teams can acquire them.

Communication

You’re probably not surprised that this makes the top of the list, but like “leadership,” “good “ communication” can seem vague. Communication is not just what you say or write, but how you get people to listen and the vibe you give off. Here are just a few of the subcategories of communication that are important skills for leaders.

Interpersonal communication 

Anyone in a leadership role needs to build trust, and how we interact with others is a key part of that foundation of trust. Someone with strong interpersonal skills will be an active listener, which means they will build trust and establish rapport, demonstrate concern, ask specific questions, and use brief verbal affirmations.

Nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. An effective communicator will know how to interpret nonverbal cues like facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.

A person with strong interpersonal skills will know how to influence others, see the other side of arguments, and build bridges to form real relationships and extend influence. And they’ll be able to do all that in the moment while fostering positive interactions.

Sound difficult? That’s because it’s a real, learned skill! There are all kinds of techniques and things to think about, and if we’re honest, most of us know we could use a lesson or a refresher in these key skills.

Learn more about how to develop successful interpersonal skills.

Effective presentation skills 

One key part of being or becoming a leader is being a confident, articulate public speaker who can clearly deliver a message. Whether it’s a rehearsed PowerPoint presentation or an off-the-cuff answer to a group, giving quality presentations is a skill that will benefit you in the short and long term.

Delivering effective presentations requires thinking through your audience: what kind of presentation will you give, and how will you capture the audience’s attention? How long will the presentations be, and what sources of information will you use to underline your points? 

When delivering a presentation, is the audience engaged? If the presentation is long, will the audience need breaks? How will you handle questions and answers, and how do you know if things went well?

These are all qualities effective speakers will have nurtured, and are important qualities of a good leader. 

Discover the art of effective presentations.

Emotional intelligence 

What is emotional intelligence? Sometimes called emotional quotient or EQ, it’s a person’s ability to perceive, use, understand, regulate, and manage emotions. Emotional intelligence is key to smoothing the communication process because it helps you connect with and support others — and that’s ultimately what leadership is about.

When you learn about emotional intelligence, you first learn about your own emotions. You develop or enhance your self-awareness and expand the tools in your emotional toolbox. That means you can learn to be more mindful, attentive, accepting, and authentic. 

Learning to apply the right emotions at the right time allows you to cultivate enthusiasm and trust not just in yourself, but in your team members and peers. 

Develop your path to emotional intelligence.

Influence and negotiation 

Negotiating isn’t just getting what you want; it’s working with people to find a good solution that also happens to be what you want. Negotiating is crucial for leadership because leaders must often wield influence either for or over their co-workers. It’s not manipulative  — it’s just a way to get things done and, often, bolster employee engagement.

Leaders who know how to negotiate know how to fight for their team and build relationships. They know how to avoid negative environments, establish boundaries, build consensus, and create a mutual gain situation. That can not only improve communication across teams and organizations, but it can make everyone better off.

Get strategic about negotiating.

Delegation and prioritization 

There are a lot of different leadership styles, but almost everyone can agree that no one likes a micromanager. That’s why effective leaders know how to prioritize and delegate. Some people are naturally good at this, but others need to practice identifying activities that waste time and how to get organized.

Good leaders will also understand why they or their peers might procrastinate and have the tools to get back to productivity. This is valuable both for their own personal performance and in how they can help peers or reports get and stay on track.

Time to prioritize!

Leading change 

If there’s one thing that’s consistent in the business world, it’s that priorities and situations change all the time. A good leader knows how to inspire confidence and bring people through that change in a positive way. 

Leading through change is more than just being inspiring; it’s about planning for the road ahead, harnessing change, and building a better work environment.

Help me lead through times of change

They get results

A massive part of leadership is enabling others to not only do their work but to do it well and happily. That is no easy feat. 

That’s why there are different leadership styles for different people and situations, and a good leader will be able to adapt their leadership style and communication style to each. Getting results is a strategic endeavor, especially when trying to help team members manage their workload or when answering tough questions. 

I want to get results!

Leadership is both an art and a science; there are techniques and strategies any leader must learn, but when it comes to putting them into practice, everything is on the table.

If you’re a leader, assess how your skills in all these areas are, then take steps to bolster your skills where you feel you’re lacking. And if you have some peers or team members who could learn some of these new skills, get them the education they need to succeed.

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