We all have an idea of what a great leader is or should be. From the folklore tales of industry which make us think of charismatic, charming and even friendly people to the more surreal images of the tech titans being more cruel with their praise. Maybe, your idea of a great leader is Al Pacino in the film, Any Given Sunday… Either way, we all have an idea of what a great leader looks and sounds like.
Our workplaces are changing, and with that we have multi-generational offices which can cause differences in ideas, visions and even executions. It’s why creating leaders in our employees is essential, because we need to channel these different ideas and visions into something much more worthwhile and for the benefit of our organisations.
Understanding what makes a great leader and knowing how to develop leadership skills in employees is key in today’s fast paced business environment.
In this guide you will learn what leadership skills are, why developing these skills is important and finally, how to develop leadership skills in your employees.
What are leadership skills?
A leader simply leads. There is nothing magical or mysterious about the word but for many people, the idea of leadership can be different for different people.
Understanding what leadership skills are help us to better understand the role of a leader and what makes them so essential. In effect, leadership skills are the abilities used in organising people and teams to reach a common goal.
We are going to take a closer look at some examples of leadership skills and give us a better understanding of what makes great leaders.
Examples of essential leadership skills
There are lots of theories around what are essential leadership skills. We are going to take a closer look at just some of these traits and understand why they are important in creating great leaders.
Delegation is the ability to assign yourself and other tasks and responsibilities. Good leaders understand who they can pick for specific tasks and equally understand who they shouldn’t. This is about showing faith and trust whilst also maintaining a clear business orientated goal in mind.
Great and effective leaders need to exude confidence and this is important because others will be looking to their leader for advice and help where necessary or best case scenario, knowing that their leader has faith that the task can be completed.
Confidence is not something that everyone has so it needs to be developed. You may start with small leadership roles or even getting your employees to do more interpersonal teamwork activities where they can gradually build up to commanding confidence in the room and around their peers.
It’s hard to not find a great leader who isn’t a great communicator. Communication needs to be done at all levels, from developing high level strategy to being able to speak to others on a human level every day.
Leaders need to be reliable & dependable - and recognised as such. Why is this important? Would you put your faith in someone who isn’t when delivering important work for the organisation?
Integrity is about being accountable for your actions or mistakes whilst also being honest and sticking to your principles regardless of the pressures you may be facing from other people within the organisation.
Great leaders possess a high level of integrity as their ideas and visions are what remain true, regardless of the projects taking place at the time. Those who have higher standards of integrity will get a better response from their team as they know they are working with someone who has values but also drives for accountability.
Following integrity is trustworthiness. Again, leaders need to show that they can be trusted, whether it is dealing with issues or conflict in the workplace or supporting their employees/team members when called upon.
Being able to empathise with their people is another essential leadership skill. It means being able to see the issue from their perspective, and understanding what kind of impact organisational decisions will have on their lives and work being produced.
Being able to demonstrate patience is another essential leadership skill. Whether that is with new starters who are trying to learn the ropes as quickly as possible to projects not flowing as smoothly. Having an air of confidence coupled with patience will put your team at ease.
Decisiveness is only useful if the decision being made is good. But as a skill, decisiveness is essential on so many different levels, if anything it helps affirm why the leader is in the position to lead but also, it brings about confidence in the abilities of the people around them as well.
Good leaders know how to motivate those around them. Whether someone needs more care or attention or someone needs a little more tough love to get the best work from them, being able to understand different motivation techniques and using these is an essential leadership skill.
As in our introduction, a great leader needs to know how to inspire. As Bill Clinton once famously quipped, “if you can’t show your team what you want to achieve - and make it their ambition by doing so - you can’t be a leader.”
Leaders will often need to come up with innovative solutions to problems and challenges, the skill is about developing these solutions with their teams. Innovation is a two pronged approach and it requires a mixture of the skills above to find solutions that can be used.
Why leadership skills development is important
Developing leadership skills is important for many different reasons. Some of these reasons include:
- Employees need leadership skills for career progression
- Employers need future leaders - for succession and business development
- People with strong leadership skills inspire others
- People with leadership skills are more able to overcome challenges and resolve issues
- People with leadership skills are better at collaboration and team working
- Employees understand and recognise the value of diverse experiences, skills and perspectives
- People with strong leadership skills help draw out the best results from their peers
- Employees with great leadership skills help to inspire their colleagues in working towards greater outcomes
How to develop leadership skills in your employees
We’ve understood what leadership skills look like and why they are important to give your employees leadership development but how can you develop these skills with your team?
There are many different ways which we are going to cover. It is important to understand that people have differing learning styles, time availability etc. so development resources need to recognise these.
Here are some of the more commonly used techniques in developing leadership skills into your staff.
- Mentoring and coaching
One of the best ways to develop staff is to use a mentor system. This pairs an employee with an experienced manager or leader and therefore their skillset can be developed through practical and theoretical learning.
- Formal training
You can use formal leadership training. These can be seminars and practical guides, supported of course by the organisation. Some programs work better than others.
- Focus groups and workshops
Using workshops and focus groups, learning defined leadership skills is totally possible. Group activities will give people more practical experience, and workshops can work to help highlight different techniques.
- Self-directed learning
By providing appropriate resources employees can engage with leadership training at their own pace and at times that work for them. For example, if someone is usually very busy during the day, they won’t have time to attend workshops or they may have family commitments for after hours seminars. Learning at your own pace is a little more time consuming in the short term but can help develop a rounded leadership style.
- Job shadowing
When it comes to succession planning, job shadowing is extremely successful. Existing members of staff will work with the person that they are either replacing to continue a leadership style.
- Voluntary work
One way to develop great leadership skills is through community based voluntary work. Famously, Barack Obama was a community organiser after college before entering politics. Voluntary work helps you to develop skills such as empathy and clear communication.
- Professional certifications and accreditation
There are professional certifications and accreditations which can be useful for developing professional leadership skills.
With our workplaces changing including a multi-generational office system, we have teams who have differences in ideas, visions and even executions. That’s why a development in strong leadership skills is becoming even more important in today’s fast paced economy.
Whatever your ideas of leadership are, knowing that you have a team of people willing to learn how to lead and to take ownership of decisions as well as inspire those around them is of critical importance in the business world today.
One of the best ways to find and train your leaders in the business is by using psychometric assessments. The Thomas talent assessment platform provides the employee development solution you need to help identify high-potential staff and build a talent pool as the foundation for future success and growth.
If you would like to find out more, please speak to one of our team.