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Anyone can be placed in a leadership role, but to be good and thrive in that position requires solid leadership skills. Good leadership skills top of the list of leadership competencies that recruiters need to focus on when hiring people or when managers promote leaders from within the organization. The highest ranking companies hunt for people with well-honed leadership skills to fill their most sought after executive positions.
But the question still remains: what are the essential leadership skills people must acquire? How can these people management skills help land an executive position? After ticking off all items outlined in this article, you’ll have enough confidence to finally hand in your resume and apply for that job you’ve been working so hard for and become a good leader.
Some leaders will say they that they do not need to be loved in the workplace. This may be true, but to build a cohesive and more engaged team, great leaders need to learn the skills for building good working relationships in the workplace.
Good working relationships increase employee engagement and according to Gallup’s meta-analysis of employee engagement, business units with good employee engagement have 41% fewer quality defects and 37% less absenteeism. A 21% increase in productivity was also seen to result from higher employee engagement. So even if you think you don’t need to be loved in the workplace, you will definitely need to be skilled in building good relationships in order to be effective. If your team is highly engaged and happy in the workplace, you will likely be loved or at least well respected as a good leader.
Tip 1. Share More Of Yourself During Meetings.
Utilize meetings as a forum to let your team get to know you better. Allow them to learn from your stories, your experiences and the lessons you have learnt in your career.
Tip 2. Write Thank You Notes.
Let your employees know that you appreciate the work that they do, especially if they go above and beyond what’s expected of them. Send them ‘thank you’ notes, and make sure that their colleagues, peers, subordinates and even your leaders know the exemplary performance you are acknowledging them for.
Tip 3. Organize Team Building Activities.
You do not need an elaborately planned team building activity, a simple after office sport activity or a family day with your staff can be an effective way to connect with them. They will also get to appreciate that you are trying to support their work-life balance.
In a study conducted by Development Dimensions International in 2008, the top of the three most important leadership qualities, at 32%, is the ability to facilitate change. In 2018, adaptability is definitely one of the most important leadership skills as the business environment has changed so much and is continuously changing, faster than ever.
Effective leadership must be able to adapt to the changes - even if that means working out of your comfort zone - so leaders are not left behind by shifts in the industry, and can give their business a competitive edge. This leads us to explore Innovation & Creativity as part of the skill-set of the best leaders.
Be Accountable In Responding To Change.
You need to make sure that you have laid out a plan on how you should respond to organizational changes. Have a detailed outline of steps and an achievable timeline in tackling a policy change that you’re dealing with. Constantly check your progress on how well you are adapting to the change and how you are exemplifying this to your staff.
What did it take for Apple to become a leader in the computer and mobile technology industry? They made innovations to products with users in mind, making their gadgets more user-friendly, as customers who wanted this feature were willing to pay for their pricier products.
Steve Jobs led the innovation and creativity for Apple Inc. by continuously forging ahead of the competition, and this probably made him one of the most influential leaders in the tech industry to date. In a global study on creativity, findings showed that unlocking creative potential is key to economic and societal growth. The increasing demand for creativity and innovation will continue to be a driving force for executives, who must harness their leadership skills in these areas to be effective and competitive.
Tip 1. Schedule Time To Think.
Find time in your schedule to sit down and think with no interruptions. This will help you organize your thoughts and set goals for yourself and your team. Use this time to think of new ideas or suggestions that can improve performance and productivity.
Tip 2. Change Your Perspective.
Look out a window with a view instead of keeping yourself in a four cornered room. Do a ‘walking meeting’ in the fresh air with a few team members as you brainstorm; a relaxed environment may help your team come up with new ideas.
Tip 3. Keep The Focus On Others.
Make it a point to listen to each of your team’s ideas. One of the ideas thrown out may just be the one you are searching for. Listening to individual ideas will also allow you to identify those who do not share your goals. This can be a good opportunity to steer them in the right direction.
In close connection with relationship building, the ability to motivate your workforce is as important as keeping employee engagement high. One of the most effective leadership skills is knowing how to continuously motivate employees, regardless of their engagement level.
Greatify point to a study done by the firm Interact on 1000 employees in the US which cited that the number 1 complaint (63%) from employees concerning their managers is lack of appreciation, and, conversely, when managers appreciate their contribution, their engagement increases by 60%. In another study by Westminster College, it was found that boosting morale is the top (32%) motivational technique employees prefer. If employees are not motivated, the company is negatively affected (financially) with absenteeism, attrition and low productivity.
Praise publicly but correct privately. Employees will definitely appreciate being acknowledged for the good work that they do, making your commendations public can boost employee engagement. This type of reward is sometimes preferred by some employees.
A leader is tasked with making decisions all the time. To be an effective leader, those decision making skills need to be top notch. Critical decisions affecting your organization on a large scale need to be sound, rational and solid.
In reality, your decisions as a leader will determine your - and potentially your organization’s - success. You need to stand by your decisions and be confident in them to convince the people involved affected by the process. Making an unpopular but necessary decision is probably one of the most difficult tasks as a manager, but it is, and will always be, part of an executive’s job description.
Tip 1. Define Your Values.
Identify your personal and organizational values. What work ethics do you live by? And what are the organization’s core values that convinced you to work for them?
Tip 2. Understand Your Organization’s Values.
Understand the values that your organization stands for. It is imperative that you accept them because the basis of all your business decisions should adhere to these values. Make sure that the values are represented in all aspects of the company.
Tip 3. Study Both Your Personal & Organizational Values Closely.
Look at your personal values alongside the organizational values. What are the similarities/differences? What adjustments do you need to make to your own values to be aligned with those of your organization? It will make your work-life much more comfortable the closer your values are aligned with that of your organization.
Tip 4. Apply Both Values In Your Decision Making Process.
Once you understand how your own values intertwine with your organization, you will be able to incorporate both sets of values in your decision making process. You will be better guided when high stress situations arise as you know what the non-negotiable items are for yourself and your organization.
According to the American Management Association a manager spends an at least 24% of their time managing conflict. Conflict can happen in many areas of business. A conflict is considered to be any issue between two or more individuals that can potentially disrupt work. Conflict in business may go beyond the workplace as it can involve customers, suppliers and even competitors.
When a conflict arises, an effective leader should be able to jump in and resolve or at least mitigate the conflict before it affects the business negatively. When properly dealt with, a conflict may even turn out to be positive for your organization.
Effective leadership means you should be good at identifying conflict, and have foresight on how to resolve it. It is also essential to be very rational when faced with confrontation. Conflict management is no doubt one of the most important leadership competencies but Robyn Short cited a study that found 60% of U.S. employees have not received any conflict management skills training. Are you trained to face conflict in the workplace?
Understand One Another.
Know what each member’s personality is. How each is motivated or demotivated. What leadership style they respond to best in relation to their cultural and social backgrounds. Seek assistance from your human resources department to provide you with personality tests that will help you better understand your team.
Negotiation is a process where two parties with different ideals get together and mutually agree on what an outcome should be. According to Skills You Need, the process of negotiation involves 6 stages: (1) Preparation, (2) Discussion, (3) Clarification of goals, (4) Negotiation towards a Win-Win outcome, (5) Agreement, (6) Implementation of a course of action. Good negotiations can be beneficial to an organization because they will build better relationships. They will also help find the best long-term solution by getting the most out of two different sides. An effective leader must be well versed in his negotiation style to move an organization forward.
Tip 1. Be The Leader They Can Trust.
Build trust among your team and be someone they know they can trust. Even when a negotiation does not turn out to be agreeable to one of the parties, if the parties involved trust the negotiator, it will be easier for them to accept the outcome whether it is in their favor or not.
Tip 2. Be Democratic.
Giving options to choose from makes it easier for your team members to make decisions. They will also feel empowered because they were given a choice and not just told what to do.
Tip 3. Be Silent About Your Sacrifices.
Don’t reveal that you have the weakest hand. Keep a straight face and show that you mean business. The other party will not be able to use your weakness to win the negotiation.
Leading a business towards success is unquestionably very challenging. To be successful, a leader must make a lot of difficult decisions. Brandon Hall Group shared a table which shows that critical thinking is the top most important skill required of leaders to successfully lead an organization.
Critical thinkers are intelligent decision makers, highly analytical and always rational. These attributes are essential to lead the organization towards achieving its goal. A leader must be able to firmly stand by his decisions. Because he is a critical thinker, it should be safe to assume that every decision he makes is well researched, objectively scrutinized and that all possible outcomes were assessed, and therefore, his final choice is the best course of action.
In a high-pressure leadership role, many events may occur simultaneously, so it is important to develop the skill of focusing on what matters most and know what impact it has on your organization. In Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he included “first things first” as the 3rd habit and explained that leadership starts with a personal vision and personal leadership.
You can use Covey’s time management quadrant (see figure #11 Time-Management skill) to help you prioritize tasks so you can focus on the important things first. The second habit he outlined is to “begin with the end in mind” therefore, a highly effective leader should be results-oriented. This habit is important because a leader needs to be able to envision the result he wants before starting work on it. When you are able to focus and orient yourself to the goal you want to achieve, the path you will lead your people on to get there will be much clearer.
Having good communication skills is an essential leadership competency. One of the most challenging management skills to find when trying to promote managers from within the organization - especially in a technology or manufacturing company where people are initially hired for their skills in production - is good communication skills.
Businesses must invest in communication management skills training in order to give their staff the chance to advance in their organizations rather than exclusively hiring externally. Good communication leads to less conflict, better negotiation outcomes, and encourages the building of solid relationships within the organization.
With the fast-paced highly competitive nature of businesses, employers continue to look for strong time-management skills. Increasingly, time has a monetary value in today’s companies. Simply Productive says that an average manager gets interrupted every 3 minutes. Stephen Covey suggests the use of his time-management quadrant to organize and prioritize tasks to be more effective.
Workloads can easily pile up, and it can be daunting to think about how much time you will need to finish your work. A leader without the right time-management skills can be easily overwhelmed and eventually burn out.
Part of having good communication skills is being able to give timely and appropriate feedback to your employees. One of the crucial leadership competencies required by firms today is the ability to give feedback to appreciate, recognize, correct or even reprimand employees.
Office vibe says that 39% of employees do not feel appreciated at work. This quickly turns into employee dissatisfaction and possibly high employee turnover. According to a survey by Globoforce, 93% of managers need training on coaching employees. It is said that people leave their bosses, not their jobs. On the other hand, when a leader receives appropriate leadership training on how to effectively give feedback, employees will feel connected and become more engaged in the workplace.
Wikipedia states that “Cultural Intelligence can be understood as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures”. The emergence of the global economy makes cultural intelligence even more lucrative to employers. With the constant need to collaborate with peers from different parts of the globe, having this managerial skill is a must.
A lot of Western companies have now expanded into China, India and other parts of Asia, and these companies must now include cultural intelligence in their management skills training to equip their executives with this very important leadership competency, for the company to thrive and succeed in the global market.
Responsibility refers to the duty attached to your position. You show good and effective leadership skills if you take responsibility for your actions. The higher your position in an organization, the greater your responsibility. You become accountable for the actions of your subordinates.
The concept of “command responsibility” stems from legal military language used for hierarchical accountability in war crimes. General Tomoyuki Yamashita was prosecuted by the U.S. Supreme Court for war crimes committed by men under his command in the Philippines during World War 2. His crime was failing to fulfill his duty by allowing his men to commit those crimes. Corporations try their best to hire the best individuals who possess the ideal leadership competencies to avoid bottom-up failure.
Without commitment, the Wright brothers would not have been successful in inventing the airplane. In an organization, both leaders and employees must have some level of commitment to their jobs for goals to be achieved. Simon Sinek said that leaders determine the workplace atmosphere and that the importance of having committed leaders cannot be underestimated, so that employees have someone to trust.
The engagement level of an organization is higher when employees trust their leaders. A committed leader exhibits stewardship. Bekele Geleta (Former Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent) said that effective leadership always involved stewardship and that it is a requirement for great leadership. However, stewardship does not happen without commitment.
Effective leadership means being aware of your full potential as well as the areas you need to further develop. One of the leadership pit-falls is complacency or arrogance. A leader must accept that there are things he has yet to learn. It then becomes his responsibility to learn these things and develop his leadership skills further to benefit himself and his organization.
Anthony Tjan sums up self-awareness in a trinity: know thyself, improve thyself and complement thyself. This leadership skill however, is not only self-focused. The ‘complement thyself’ in the trinity involves other people. As a leader, this can be your team that is composed of different individuals with strengths that complement each other. You must be aware of what value each person in your team can bring to achieve the goals you envision. Enrolling in a team leadership program that leads you to realize your team’s and your own potential is a great way to fulfil your potential as a leader.
Delegation is an essential part of effective leadership. Delegation does not mean offloading work so you can have less stress as a leader. Effective delegation means you are building the leadership skills of those individuals who have the potential to become future leaders.
Delegating tasks means that you trust your team members to do more than what is expected of them. More importantly, delegation is one of the most important leadership competencies because it allows you to focus on more pressing issues. Through delegation, you are essentially mentoring your team members. It is a form of informal management skills training as they undertake tasks above their paygrade.
Organizational leadership involves setting goals, planning the execution, seeing the implementation through, and reviewing the outcome to identify improvement areas. It also involves returning to the drawing board and setting new goals. Even with all the technological advances at work, managers can find the workplace to be a stressful environment if it is not systematized. This is why organization skills are an important item on your checklist of leadership competencies that you need to learn to be an effective leader. Operational excellence teams also play a big role in helping managers learn organization management skills as they help make work flows leaner and identify defects to eliminate.
An article entitled the 10 golden rules of effective management listed consistency as the first rule. Every manager has their own management style but whatever style you use, you need to be consistent in treating each team member equally. Complete fairness in rewarding behaviors you want to encourage, and in giving feedback to behaviors that you want to discourage is essential.
Team members to managers are like children to their parents. They will want to work hard for your approval, but you should consistently treat everyone the same and always avoid favoritism. Effective leadership is being consistent in implementing your chosen management style and leadership values so your integrity as a leader remains solid.
Leaders need to be honest to earn the trust of their employees. This leadership skill is more natural than learned or trained. It is about ethics and integrity. The CEO magazine shared that 89% of 100,000 people surveyed say it is the most valued leadership quality. One may ask how this is a skill, but it can truly be one of the most effective leadership competencies, that will win your people’s trust and make them committed to their jobs. Teams become more engaged if they perceive that their leaders are honest and have integrity. Honesty makes you an effective leader by being consistent in keeping your word and following through with your promises to your team members.
A successful organization must be cohesive. Only leaders with effective management skills can bring an organization towards success by putting to use all leadership skills training regarding people management. Bringing people from different backgrounds and ideals can be challenging. Team building can help you find common interests among your team members which will promote good teamwork. When a group works well together, productivity improves, goals are achieved faster, better ideas are generated, and there is less attrition, so talent within the organization is retained. Ultimately, when leaders of the organization have good team building skills, the business saves hiring and new employee training costs.
As previously outlined, self-awareness is a key skill, and emotional intelligence is closely tied-in with this skill. A leader who does not possess self-awareness as a management skill may also not possess the required emotional intelligence to lead his team effectively. Organizations that are more technical in nature should invest in management skills training that focuses on emotional intelligence to help advance their production line staff to supervisory roles.
The ability to empathize and listen to your peers and team members is part of being emotionally intelligent. To decipher a person’s emotion and know how best to deal with it professionally may not come instinctively to everyone so necessary leadership skills training needs to be implemented to develop or enhance emotional intelligence.
Statistics show that 93% of managers need training on coaching employees. The ability to train and coach other people is an essential management skill that requires a manager to teach as well as give constructive and timely feedback. The Harvard Business Review even published an online article entitled: “Managers aren’t doing enough to train employees for the future.”
Organizations should include how to train people in their leadership skills training programs. While online leadership trainings and formal leadership skills trainings given by the training department are common investments for organizations, successful organizations are full of managers who do on-the-job training and mentor their staff. Employees feel more connected to their managers in this set-up and collaboration is encouraged, resulting in increased engagement and higher productivity.
Every organization wants an employee who goes above and beyond what is expected. Accenture for example, evaluates employees on three areas and Value Creator is one of them. To be a value creator, means you are someone who goes above and beyond the minimum expectation. This effective leadership skill allows executives to drive people to do better each time. When you go above and beyond what’s necessary, you raise the bar and the standard becomes higher for the next one who will be doing the same task. So a process of continuous improvement is created and the outcome is better every time.
Confident leaders make the organization appear strong and solid to its external and internal customers. It is critical for leaders to appear confident to their team members who look up to them at all times. Leaders need to make confident decisions even when circumstances are difficult.
New leaders can benefit most from leadership training programs that help improve their communication skills, people management skills and even simple personal development trainings. For example, “dress for success” seminars can help boost confidence for new leaders. Seasoned leaders, on the other hand, continue to build confidence as they gain more leadership trainings and practical experiences in their fields.
All of the above mentioned leadership and management skills make an effective leader who can help lead an organization to future success. But it is necessary for the organization to provide training programs to support their leaders in gaining those much-needed leadership competencies.
In Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Leadership Development Study, 71% of organizations acknowledge that their leaders were “not ready to lead their organizations into the future”. The lack of confidence by organizations in their talent pool leads them to meet immediate employment needs by hiring externally.
Developing internal training programs can take time and be costly, but there are existing training programs that exist that are proven to be effective by distinguished companies. Explore IMD’s leadership training programs to learn the effective leadership skills your organization needs.
For seasoned managers who need more in-depth leadership training, discover how IMD’s High Performance Leadership program can help you be the effective leader your organization needs to bring them further into the future.
Do you want to fast-track your career, take on new leadership responsibilities, and manage key projects within your organization?»Learn more
IMD business school rankings
Our executive education programs are ranked highly by the world's most influential business publications.