The real skills you should look for in leaders

June 25, 2018

Paris Stevens

From Winston Churchill to George Washington, successful leaders have traditionally held a certain set of qualities. As well as a strong presence and the ability to make important decisions under pressure, leaders throughout history have been lauded for their courage and conviction. Fast forward to the modern workplace and things are changing. While top-heavy management structures still exist, many firms are opting for a more community style approach, where employees across the organisation all have a say. Whatever approach your company takes, good management is still considered to be one of the leading criteria for success. But what does it take to be a great leader? And what qualities should you look for?


Around half of employees record ‘poor management’ as a reason for leaving an organisation, suggesting it’s crucial to develop positive relationships with staff. Leaders can’t develop a strong management strategy without gaining the respect of their employees, so it’s vital that they learn to connect with staff. In addition to all the traditional skills we associate with leaders, bosses also need empathy to succeed. Allowing the leader to better engage with colleagues and understand the issues and problems they may be facing, empathy is a quality that’s too often overlooked.

Ability to listen

With the days of ‘jobs for life’ a distant memory, good leaders can’t be complacent. They need to keep staff engaged at all times to ensure good retention rates, which means they need strong interpersonal skills. Great leaders don’t expect to be right all the time- they recognise their weaknesses and listen to other members of staff. They also use listening skills to better understand the needs of employees, creating a positive work environment where people feel their voice is valued.

Embraces learning and mentoring opportunities

According to a Gallup survey, learning and development is an extremely important part of the work environment, with 87% of millennials rating it as a key part of their role. Good leaders not only recognise this, they possess the skills to lead by example, and embrace learning and mentorship opportunities. They are able to understand the different talents amongst their staff members and work directly with them to develop their careers.

Goal orientated

The ability to develop clear objectives and strategy is essential for a leader to be successful. And, in addition to having a clear understanding of the company’s goals and direction, good leaders need to have the skills to communicate this to their teams and divide up responsibility accordingly. The ability to delegate is important, as this demonstrates that you trust your employees and put value in their skills.

Strives for self-development

A recent survey in shows that 58% of managers received no formal training before taking on their role. A good leader recognises the importance of continual development, even at the top, and will seek out ways to improve. Whether that’s through informal sessions with other employees who have skills in different areas or formal leadership training, they are open to the idea of self-improvement. Good leaders welcome constructive criticism and never shut others out.


No matter how skilled a leader is, unless they have passion for their brand and their people, they can never achieve true success. Leading by example, managers should demonstrate their commitment and passion from the start. In addition to boosting their own personal drive and work ethic, that enthusiasm will motivate other employees and keep the business moving in the right direction during challenging times.

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