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40+ Leadership Skills All Companies Want to Hire For [+ Lists]
What makes a good leader? What leadership skills must one demonstrate to climb the professional ladder? On top of that, how do the rest of us recognize a good leader to follow willingly? Some say you cannot make leaders because leadership qualities are born. On the contrary, others actively nurture new generations of leaders ready to take things to the next level. Most organizations recruit leaders from their ranks as they patiently observe and foster specific skills development in their employees.
How do we know that a candidate displays the qualities of a good leader? Today, we will talk more about leadership skills and the individual qualities you have to focus on to identify an emerging leader.
Consider this article as the first part of a more complex guide. Next time, we will focus specifically on leadership assessment tools. If you want to know what makes a good leader, read on! Come back here next week to learn about the instruments that recruiters use to identify leadership styles and the people who display them!
What Are Leadership Skills?
Before we approach the topic of leadership skills, we should offer a leadership definition. It isn’t easy to do so, as there isn’t a universally accepted one. However, we appreciate one, in particular, coming from Greg Phillips, the Managing Director at DISC ADVANCED. We like it because it gives us a good idea of what leadership skills are.
True leaders act with integrity, and in doing so, they establish trust. They genuinely value their people, and in doing so, they create loyalty. True leaders are in the business of assisting people in realizing their full potential, and in doing so, they inspire excellence.
We realize this quote does not represent a traditional definition, but it brings us closer to understanding what leadership skills and qualities are. Great leaders seem to:
- Exude confidence;
- Display the ability to motivate and inspire others;
- Foster trust, respect, and genuine interpersonal relationships around them;
- Enthuse others, so they become better;
- Assume decisions no matter how hard they are;
- Effortlessly lead others in glorious battle, metaphorically, of course.
Whether natured or nurtured or both, it is clear that more and more organizations are looking for leadership skills in their established and new employees. But why do leadership skills matter in our current economic and socio-politic landscape?
Why Are Companies Investing in Leadership Development?
When companies identify leadership skills in existing employees and actively “hunt” for candidates showing such leadership qualities, they contribute to the entire organization’s growth. Research conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership has revealed some exciting facts:
Organizations that invest in human capital development (including leadership development) see a significant return in the form of stock prices.
65% of companies with mature succession management programs effectively drove improved business results through leadership skills versus 6% of companies with no succession process.
Many of the financial and real estate sectors’ failures in recent years are at least in part attributable to ineffective leadership.
[research ]showed a strong link between leadership skills and the bottom line [of a company].
When facing changes in the business environment, 86% of companies with strategic leadership development programs can respond rapidly compared to 52% of companies with less mature leadership programs.
Jennifer Martineau, Emily Hoole and Tracy Patterson. Leadership development: is it worth the money? EFMD Global Focus | Volume 03 | Issue 03 | 2009
When it comes to leadership skills, it is only natural to look for them inside the organization. After all, seasoned employees already know the company. They aligned themselves to its core values and could navigate all issues to reach the organization’s goals. For this reason, responsible companies invest in leadership programs.
Top Reasons to Nurture and Hire for Leadership Skills
As recruiters tasked with the identification of leadership skills within the organization, we have to know that finding and nurturing leadership qualities has the following advantages:
- Improve a company’s financial stability and performance;
- Help not only hire the best talent but retain the already existing talent and rewards it;
- Build an organizational environment/culture oriented towards performance;
- Increase organizational agility and adaptability to ever-changing economic, social, and political landscapes.
So, we know we have to search for leadership skills in existing employees and new candidates. But what are we looking for, exactly?
Top Leadership Skills Needed in Existing and New Employees
Beyond the psychology-related conversation we will have about leadership skills in the next moments; we would like to remind you of a few things familiar to all of us, no matter our professions and positions.
Isn’t it true that you met and worked with both formal leaders and informal leaders? Isn’t it that you mostly trusted and followed the informal leaders, although they had no official power/authority? What makes the difference between people in power and people who are powerful enough to influence, motivate, and help grow the ones around them?
Well, if you liked your informal leaders better over the years, it means you appreciated in them a specific set of soft skills, personality traits, cognitive skills, aptitudes, and attitudes. Now we are back to talking organizational psychology and organizational culture!
Key Leadership Dimensions
You will hear many often ask, “what are the five leadership skills” or “what are the seven leadership skills,” or “what are the top 10 qualities of a good leader?” Nevertheless, when people talk about “skills,” they also include personality traits; behaviors; soft abilities; general intelligence; emotional intelligence, and so on. But, we know better.
For this guide’s purpose, we will refer to ability skills as dimensions that include traits, attitudes, behaviors, mental capabilities, etc. It will help us understand better how to perform leadership assessments. Moreover, it will help us understand better what to test for when we use leadership evaluation tools.
So, we all know leadership is one of the most sought employability skills out there, but what makes leadership skills in their turn?
As we discussed not long ago, integrity is not merely a skill nor solely an attitude. It is a complex construct combining innate traits, behaviors, aptitudes, and plenty of skills. Testing for integrity is not easy, and many mistake integrity with work ethics or accountability.
So let’s see what integrity means in the context of defining leadership skills:
- Impeccable work ethics at all times;
- Reliability and dependability in all working relations with the management and within the team;
- Honesty and trustworthiness;
- Respectfulness towards own work, other peoples’ work, etc.;
- Recognizing achievements in others;
Having an integer team member fosters a working environment based on mutual respect, trust, honesty and openness, positivity, goal-orientation, superior conflict management, and strong & positive examples for other people.
2. Strategic Thinking and Acting
Some say bosses know what to do, while leaders know where to look. Leaders are the visionaries and the engines running an organization towards success. According to a Harvard Business Review report, strategic thinkers make some of the most effective leaders. But what does strategic thinking means when it comes to finding it in others and maybe measuring it objectively?
In current practice, strategic thinkers are the ones who display the following sets of skills, traits, aptitudes, and attitudes:
- Responsiveness and adaptability to change;
- Critical thinking skills;
- Fast and accurate decision-making skills;
- Rational and logical thinking;
- Creativity and innovation;
- Analytical skills;
- Research skills;
- Learning agility.
As you can see, many leadership skills on this list are cognitive skills, and you should test and measure them in all employees or candidates for obvious reasons. You can also use plenty of ability tests to highlight logical thinking, analytical skills, and so on. Personality tests and well-crafted interviews help you identify leaders within the organization – in case they did not already make a case for themselves with their exemplary work.
Strategic thinkers are the ones who do not falter in the face of adversity but adapt, learn, and lead the way towards success without even flinching.
3. Relationship Building and Nurturing
…and at this point, they all knew they would follow William Wallace to death and beyond.
To make a quick parenthesis, some of the best leadership training courses include Braveheart’s speech (from the movie with the same name and Mel Gibson as the titular character). When you break down that discourse, you can learn a lot about what makes a good leader that people will follow.
So, what makes a good leader? You can have outstanding integer human resources managers and matchless strategic thinkers in the finance and operations departments. But are they veritable leaders?
One of the most visible and praised leadership qualities is one’s ability to influence others and build a strong relationship with people they would follow willingly, truthfully, and in good conscience.
Leaders – the ones we call “natural born” – are individuals who can build and maintain genuine, open, and strong relationships within a group and have teamwork towards a common goal. Team building, however, requires a set of particular traits, skills, and abilities.
- Communication skills;
- Conflict resolution;
- Emotional intelligence and empathy;
- Active listening;
However, be mindful that even if a team likes one of its members very much, it does not mean that the individual is also a good leader. Sure, you can use an introvert/extrovert test (within its limitations) to get an idea about an employee. Nevertheless, you have to factor in other traits and behaviors building towards leadership.
Next on our leadership skills list is self-development, which is not a skill per se, but an attitude. According to Brian Bullock, a lecturer at Northeastern University, authentic leaders dedicate a fraction of their time to self-development. It means that they learn new information, plan for the next week, or develop some of their skills.
“This could be seeking out quick learning experiences, whether they’re through online videos or short, online training. Maybe it’s learning about how to work with difficult people, how to have a difficult conversation, or how to motivate someone difficult to motivate. Learning isn’t something that should ever end; it should be continual.”
While learning something new and developing one’s abilities is always crucial for all professionals – leaders or not – we would like to add a couple of leadership skills examples. We are talking about traits and abilities that all leaders should focus on beyond learning factual information.
- Coping mechanisms;
- Intrinsic motivation;
- Frustration tolerance;
- Time management, etc.
Such leadership skills are trainable. The best part is that all are personal strengths that all of us should practice and strive to master.
5. Teaching and Mentoring
We naturally like, respect, and follow people from whom we feel we have something to learn. If we are talking about leadership qualities, mentoring others is among the most crucial ones. Leaders usually think about themselves less and focus on other peoples’ progress – personally and professionally. In organizations, leadership translates into teams that reach their goals working in unison and growing together. Here are some leadership skills examples you might want to look for in this category:
- Understanding and valuing individual differences (personal & professional) within the team;
- Recognizing and rewarding achievements;
- Assessment skills;
- Feedback offering skills;
- Positive reinforcement abilities;
- Demonstrated expertise in the required fields;
- Offering positive examples of own work results/ethics/skills.
If you take a quick look at the qualities that make a good mentor, you will see many that also describe a good leader. The willingness and enthusiasm to teach and invest in others make mentors and leaders some of the most respected professionals.
How Do You Identify Leadership Skills Within an Organization?
We have been saying so far that most successful companies recruit leaders within their ranks. They are also on the hunt to find individuals with leadership skills to onboard in leadership training programs. Beyond leadership assessment, how do CEOs and HR managers identify leaders? Let’s see a short roundup of strategies to discover new leaders in your teams:
- Observe employees’ character and work ethics. It would help if you kept an eye on those who do not work exclusively for power, wealth, or public recognition. You want those who display an internal motivation to do the right thing for their teams and the company;
- Provide organizational/work opportunities for leaders to shine. Allow some people to play a higher role in the company or helm coaching and mentoring programs for others. Screen the ones who accept challenges and opportunities and turn every failure into a lesson they can use to grow personally and professionally.
- Ask around, talk to people. It is one department in which many CEOs fail: they don’t ask their employees for legit opinions regarding the company’s future, potential leaders, growth, etc. Obviously, as a recruiter, you don’t go to the office asking people how they feel about John or whether they believe he would make a good leader for the accounting department.
- Use leadership assessment tools, personality inventories, cognitive assessment tests, and so on.
About such assessment tools – for either new candidates or existing employees – we will talk next week!
We are curious to know what you think about applicants who note that they have leadership skills in their resumes. Do you ask for details during the interview? Do you dismiss the claim, as all candidates say they have leadership qualities? Is your current pre-assessment practice focusing on discovering leadership abilities using interviews or structured tests?
Please share your thoughts with us, and let’s continue the conversation next week!
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