Everybody wants to progress higher up the career ladder in a place where they enjoy working. One of the most common progression routes is leadership, where you might manage people, run a department or even take responsibilities for leading a project to completion.
But to be an effective leader that’s successful in the workplace, there are specific leadership skills you need to possess if you’re to positively impact those around you. Whether you’re new to leadership, you’re chasing a promotion or you’re an experienced leader, here are some important leadership skills for workplace success.
As a leader, you’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting to get to where you are today. Where most fall short is that leaders fear that handing off tasks to others puts their skills into question and that people assume they’re weak because they’re incapable of doing a particular job themselves.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. Delegating is a massive sign that you’re an excellent leader.
Sometimes, it can feel like only you can do things a certain way, so it’s easy to continue adding tasks to your plate. Eventually, that can spiral out of control and you have no time whatsoever. It also reduces opportunities for others, adds to your stress and you can’t work on high-value tasks.
A good leader can identify which of their employees are skilled in certain areas. Do this with your team so you know who’ll be best placed to take particular tasks off your list. For this, you need to display absolute trust in employees and define expectations.
A leader without effective communication skills is nothing. Employees will naturally turn to you, so you need to master every type of communication possible, especially since different people communicate in different ways. Plus, the way you communicate on a one-to-one basis might be very different when you communicate with departments with multiple people.
You also need to communicate regularly to keep people in the know and not make them feel like they’re out of the loop. Whether it’s high-level topics such as profit and loss or project status, it’s critical you have an open-door policy where two-way communication is encouraged.
Some of the communication skills you’ll need to master as a leader include:
- Active listening
- Nonverbal communication
- Public speaking
- Written and verbal communication
Leaders that don’t offer flexibility tend not to achieve team-wide buy-in from their colleagues. Last-minute changes and emergencies are rife in the world of work. As a leader, you need to understand that and be flexible with your team’s needs.
If you can show you’re flexible, employees will appreciate you a lot more. However, this goes beyond simply meeting change requests or changing locations. You need to be open to suggestions — that also shows you’re flexible to change.
Maybe it’s changing the processes, switching project management systems or restructuring teams. Showing you’re adaptable and can improvise is a good sign of being a flexible leader.
The only way your team can be motivated is if they have a motivated leader to look up to. Whether you realize it or not, you’re an inspiration to them and the more motivated you are and the more you care about your team, the more they’ll be willing to go the extra mile for you and the business.
Today, it goes beyond salary. While a healthy bank balance is important, so are things like employee perks, a healthy work-life balance and rewards that encourage outstanding, consistent performance.
To be a successful leader, you’ll need to identify what motivates your team. The challenge is adopting multiple motivation techniques, as what motivates one colleague might differ from another. For example, salary might be a crucial motivator for somebody, whereas another needs a reliable mentor and to be publicly recognized for good work.
The more you motivate your team, the more they’ll be invested in the organization for the long term.
Although delegating a task might mean you aren’t 100% responsible for a potential failure, a successful leader will always hold their hands up when things don’t go to plan. You can’t be the type of leader that only shouts about the successes but sweeps the errors under the rug. If something goes wrong, you need to be willing to accept some of the blame.
The reason for this is your actions will rub off on others. The more they see you pointing the finger at someone else, the more this type of behavior is encouraged. In the end, nobody in the team will ever assume responsibility and will constantly shift the blame to somebody else.
Shifting the blame will also make colleagues lose respect for you. They want a leader that can take it on the chin and then devise a plan to ensure everyone learns from these mistakes. So, acknowledge what went wrong, be open to feedback, consider multiple solutions and be as transparent as possible.
Again, your teammates and employees will replicate your behavior as you’re a leader. If you’re showing up late to the office and putting in minimal effort, everybody assumes this is acceptable and will follow suit. A leader who wants to be a workplace success will instead show unwavering commitment to set the standard for the rest of the team.
It applies to everything. If you said you’d review a project by a specific date, you’d need to do it. If somebody booked a meeting, you’d need to prepare for it. If you promised an office get-together, you’d need to deliver. If you aren’t committed as a leader, how can you expect employees to be committed?
To be a successful and committed leader, you need to follow through on promises, display a strong work ethic, show what it means to be a team player and have an infectious passion that rubs off on everybody else.
To be a successful leader in the workplace, you need to prove to those around you that they can trust you with anything — big or small. They need to be comfortable around you, so that means you need to be approachable, honest and open, so employees feel the same. Like respect, trust is earned, so you can’t ask for it but show it via your actions.
There are a lot of qualities you’ll need to naturally work on to be trustworthy. A solid moral compass, respect, honesty, empathy, confidentiality, reliability, credibility, thoughtfulness — the list goes on.
The more of these you can showcase, the more comfortable employees will be to approach you and confide in you. They need to know you have their back.
Positivity goes a long way to creating a joyful and enthusiastic work environment. To be a successful leader, you need to do your part to add to that positive environment so colleagues know that even in stressful moments, the workplace is one they should enjoy coming to.
If it’s a hostile environment, you’ll find teammates won’t be engaged and won’t enjoy working for the company. A positive environment helps achieve more buy-in — but it always starts with the leaders highlighting that positive culture.
Show that you’re caring, show your humorous side, be empathetic, friendly and have regular work socials. This skill will not only impact how your employees feel but also how you feel in the workplace.
Another critical leadership skill for workplace success is the ability to give and receive feedback. This is essential as a leader, as there will be people who need that positive recognition, so they’re aware they’re doing a good job. At the same time, influential leaders need to overcome that awkward feeling when delivering negative or constructive feedback to poor performers.
That doesn’t mean you need to micromanage and breathe down the necks of every employee that’s struggling. However, teaching and mentoring people is how they’ll learn best. If you can deliver feedback in a calm, clear, confident and empathetic way, recipients will respect that.
Make it frequent, keep it fair, coach the people who need it and always be specific to build confidence in your team.
The same applies to receiving feedback. Naturally, not everyone will be comfortable offering their leaders feedback, but you need to make the first move and encourage this, as it’s the only way you can grow to succeed in the workplace.
If you aren’t formally a leader yet in your organization, don’t let this list of essential leadership skills for workplace success put you off. You don’t need to have a leadership label to work on these skills. Take the initiative, ask for more responsibility and pinpoint the leadership skills you want to work on.
Over time, you’ll become stronger in the areas you selected and that will put you in a better position to become an official leader or senior figure within your business. If you feel you’re already skilled in some of them, go ahead and list them in your resume and cover letter, along with specific examples to strengthen your case.
You can do the same in your interviews, too. As long as you provide examples of when you used these leadership skills, you’ll stand out from the crowd.