- IMD Business School

8 key leadership strengths to focus on in 2024

Have you found your key leadership strengths?

If you’re looking to make a mark on the world there are some key leadership strengths you’ll need to develop. Leadership can come in many different forms, this article documents eight key leadership strengths that are key to master on your way to a successful career.

So whether you’re just starting out in your career or looking to take things to the next level, read on for the leadership strengths you should focus on developing.

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Situational awareness
  3. Excellent communication skills
  4. Effective negotiation skills
  5. Conflict resolution skills
  6. Collaboration skills and intercultural sensitivity
  7. Ability to work with different personal styles and approaches
  8. Being able to make courageous or difficult decisions

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is considered to be one of the key leadership strengths that must be developed by people placed in management positions. Self-awareness is, in essence, the ability to monitor your own emotions and reactions as a leader.

Practicing self-awareness allows you to better react to situations or people who may trigger you. This is a great skill to have for a leader. Developing self-awareness better equips you as a leader to become aware of your emotions, and build a toolkit for how to handle them in a professional situation. Being more self-aware can lead to avoiding unnecessary conflict. It will also help you set a good example for your team.

Leadership is a fluid topic, and many leaders are constantly striving to improve, so you may not be exactly where you want to be as a leader, however developing self-awareness and acknowledging areas you need to work on is a key step in your leadership development.

Leaders who do not practice self-awareness can often appear arrogant or entitled. This can make it difficult to connect with and build meaningful relationships with your team. If you have little to no awareness of yourself, how can you understand boundaries, or critically when you may be crossing a line as a leader.

Leaders who display self-awareness are also able to adapt their leadership style to the needs of their team. For example, if a team is feeling stressed or under increased pressure, a leader with good self-awareness will know how to provide the support and encouragement needed to alleviate such concerns.

Conversely, if a team is complacent, a leader with self-awareness will know how to challenge them and push them out of their comfort zone. Self-awareness is a key ingredient for success in any leadership role.

Here are some quick tips to help you become more self-aware as a leader:

  1. Keep an open mind
  2. Stay focused
  3. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses
  4. Know your emotional triggers
  5. Practice self-discipline
  6. Seek feedback from your team

2. Situational awareness

Being aware of what is happening around you is a sign of an innate leadership strength. Being a leader is fundamentally about taking your organization forward, therefore it is vitally important that you have situational awareness.

Situational awareness requires outward focus. As a leader you must listen, observe and consider the dynamics of a situation to make decisions. You are also reliant on strong inward focus, considering your strengths and weaknesses in order to make the most effective decisions. Situational awareness is a crucial component of leadership, with a lot at stake.

It is important to consider that situational awareness is more a mindset, than a hard skill. Developing situational awareness, and keeping this strong mindset will help you paint a picture of what is happening around you, and your organization. This will help you to make more informed strategic, and tactical decisions and drive the direction of your organization. Good situational awareness also allows you to predict potential problems and opportunities before they may arise.

As a leader, your every action is on show within your organization, a lack of situational awareness can easily become detrimental to your capacity to lead. A failed meeting or an encounter with executive management gone awry reflects a lack of situational awareness.

As they say, forewarned is forearmed. Situational awareness gives you the ability to plan ahead and be prepared for anything that comes your way. Being aware of your surroundings is not only a sign of a great leader but also an indication of a smart and strategic thinker.

Here are some quick tips to help you become more situationally aware as a leader:

  1. Elevate your attitude
  2. Allow yourself ample time for reflection
  3. Connect regularly with peers and colleagues

3. Excellent communication skills

Leadership is communication. To be an effective leader, you must be able to communicate effectively. Your success, and that of your organization is reliant on it.

As a leader, you need to be a skilled communicator in relationships at many levels, and with a wide range of different audiences. Therefore it is vital that you are able to think clearly, and critically you must learn to handle the rapid flow of information within your organization, and among customers, partners, employees, and other stakeholders and influencers.

Your communication as a leader must be purposeful, and intentional. The ability to know when, what and exactly how to communicate is an art. Delivering effective communication is vital to gain trust, align in pursuit of targets and goals, and inspire change. Leaders who lack strong communication skills often find themselves in situations where information is misunderstood, or lacking. This can ultimately lead to relationships souring and place barriers between you, and your teams which can inhibit success.

Good communication skills can also help to avoid conflicts within an organization. If you are able to effectively communicate your expectations and listen to the needs of others, it will be easier to find a compromise that everyone can agree on. Communication is an essential skill for any leader who wants to be successful.

Here are some quick tips to help you become a more confident communicator:

  1. Be authentic
  2. Be visible
  3. Listen carefully and intently
  4. Keep it simple, and direct
  5. Encourage input
  6. Affirm with actions

4. Effective negotiation skills

As a leader, effective negotiation skills will enable you to cope with a variety of different situations. Whether you are working on a complex deal, mediating in a difficult situation, or negotiating a new contract, it is likely there will be some compromise needed to reach a desirable solution.

In a negotiation, an effective leader will look to understand the needs and interests of those they lead and work to satisfy those needs. Effective negotiators are able to find common ground between parties, build trust, and manage conflict. They are also able to see the “big picture” and possess long-term thinking.

The environment you find yourself in can also have an affect on the type of negotiation skills that you need. Whether dealing with your direct reports, or engaging with members of the executive management, so you’ll need to be adept at adapting your style for each situation.

The way we view things determines how they will be perceived in reality. As an effective negotiator, it’s vital to keep your viewpoints open and avoid involving ego and bias. This ultimately means you need to keep your emotions in check throughout any negotiation. Managing emotions can have a positive impact in any negotiation situation. This can ultimately translate into easier negotiations, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Leadership and negotiation go hand in hand. Your success depends on how you prepare for negotiations. As an effective negotiator, the positive outcome depends on your ability to think through all the essentials. The ability to negotiate business terms is essential to any organization, as it increases the chance of obtaining the desired outcome and creates a win-win situation.

Here are some quick tips to help you become a more confident negotiator:

  1. Be emotionally adept and open
  2. Ask for more than you expect to receive
  3. Communicate openly
  4. Honor your commitments
  5. If possible, never be the first to make an offer
  6. Once a deal is concluded, stop negotiating!

Take your negotiation skills to the next level »

5. Conflict resolution skills

Conflict occurs when two or more people’s interests are not in alignment with each other. It can also occur due to an individual’s biases, cultural beliefs, social status, and other factors determining which values they prioritize above the ones others might not.

Conflict is a inevitable part of any organization, whether it is between co-workers, managers and employees, or different departments within the company. While conflict can sometimes be beneficial, allowing for creativity and different perspectives to be brought to the table, it can also quickly escalate and become detrimental to the business.

Generally, conflict should not be considered good or bad, rather it may be viewed as a necessity to facilitate meaningful relationships between people and groups. The means and how the conflict is handled determine whether it is productive or debilitating. How you as a leader navigates the intricacies of conflict management determines whether or not the conflict escalates.

By being able to calmly and patiently listen to both sides, identify the root of the problem, and come up with a mutually acceptable solution, leaders play a pivotal role in preventing conflicts from spinning out of control.

Conflict resolution skills are the tools that help people handle different types of conflict, this typically involves a person leading a discussion to diffuse a situation. When doing so it is critical to maintain emotional control and lead the situation toward mediation, or compromise. Leaders who are able to deploy these skills maintain unified teams, ensuring that debate remains healthy and doesn’t turn into division.

In addition, by modelling positive conflict resolution skills, leaders can encourage their employees to do the same, creating a more harmonious workplace.

Here are some quick tips to help you develop conflict resolution skills:

  1. Be receptive
  2. Be candid
  3. Learn to listen
  4. Recognize and reward
  5. Be mindful of biases
  6. Allow everyone to share their position

Boost your conflict resolution skills with a leadership program »

6. Collaboration skills and intercultural sensitivity

Instead of top-down management, a collaborative leadership style encourages wider access to information, different perspectives, and a shared responsibility amongst teams. When leaders are collaborative their team members feel like they are cared for, their contributions are valued, and their perspectives are understood and taken into account.

Practicing collaborative leadership encourages commitment and engagement. Employees are more likely to invest additional effort and energy when they know that management is invested in them and shows that they care about them.

Leadership can at times be a lonely pursuit, and, you may be comfortable working alone but that will not always lead to the best results. Having a team supporting you regardless of the members’ gender, age or race is one of the best ways to achieve greater results.

In order to build an effective and cohesive team, it is important to understand and appreciate the differences between people. Collaboration skills involve the ability to listen to others, communicate clearly, and negotiate compromise when necessary.

Collaborative leaders generally prefer to implement a bottom-up approach. This is where the people doing the actual work propose and determine direction, rather than the traditional top-down method, where a small group of managers set the direction.

Intercultural sensitivity goes hand-in-hand with collaboration skills, and refers to the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective. Leaders who are able to build teams that are diverse in background and viewpoints are more likely to be successful in achieving their goals.

Here are some quick tips to help you become a more collaborative leader:

  1. Communicate openly and honestly
  2. Listen to and encourage feedback
  3. Enable access to information
  4. Avoid silos
  5. Actively encourage speaking up
  6. Use failure as lessons

7. Ability to work with different personal styles and approaches

As a leader, you are responsible for creating and maintaining the connection between your employees and teams. This means adapting your style and communication to accommodate differing styles between people.

You need to know your employees, whether they are introverted, or extroverted as well as understanding how they behave and their style of work.

A strong leader is someone who can adapt their leadership style to suit the situation and the people they are working with. This can be a difficult skill to master, as it requires an understanding of different personality types and approaches.

Creating an inclusive environment and working culture is a critical element of this. Leaders need to create a safe space for their teams, and facilitate strong working relationships through inclusivity.

Here are some quick tips to help you adapt your leadership style:

  1. Be mindful of your language
  2. Help introverts to share their thoughts
  3. Help extroverts to listen to other persectives
  4. Be open, and avoid being vague
  5. Accept your own flaws

8. Being able to make courageous or difficult decisions

Knowing how to make difficult decisions is a challenging, yet essential element of leadership. Ultimately, the decisions you make are bound to make somebody unhappy, as a leader you are the go-to person for almost every hard business decision.

Being a successful leader is not just about making the right decisions, in fact some of the most effective leaders are those who are able to make tough decisions in the face of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Being able to face these challenges head-on is a key quality of strong leaders.

When faced with difficult situations, they don’t shy away from making courageous decisions. Instead, they embrace the challenge and use it as an opportunity to showcase their leadership strength.

As a result, their team knows that they can always rely on their leader to make the tough calls, even when things are looking uncertain. This type of strength instills confidence in those being led and helps to build a strong foundation for successful teams.

Indecision can be fatal in leadership – remember it is important to have conviction, and make informed decisions, however large or small. Sometimes you will have to make split-second decisions without all of the relevant information, and must rely on your intuition and gut feeling.

Here are some quick tips to help you develop your decision making capabilities:

  1. Be informed, wherever possible
  2. Limit the factors you use to make decisions
  3. Set yourself deadlines
  4. Remove yourself from the equation
  5. Reduce fatigue by spending less time on smaller decisions

Developing your own leadership strengths

Leadership strengths are important for anyone in a leadership position. A good leader needs to be able to understand human behavior and how different people will react in different situations. They also need to have a high level of self-awareness, so they can be aware of their own reactions and how they might affect others.

If you can master these leadership traits, you will be prepared to face any situation, even ones that are new to you. Confident leadership is essential in any situation, and these strengths will help you develop that confidence. Leadership is an essential skill in any area of life, and these leadership strengths will give you the tools you need to be successful.

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