The Most Important Skills in Senior Leadership and How to Develop Them
There are many skills that are readily noticed in well-known leaders — skills that go beyond the watered-down slogans framed in corporate offices, but also define what makes leaders stand out from the crowd. Understanding what these skills are, why they are so important, and how to develop them will help you tremendously as you rise to the top.
What Are the Most Important Skills in Senior Leadership?
Before you can cultivate leadership skills, you must first know what they are and recognize why they are important to your future growth.
- Self-Awareness. If success is to start with you, then you must know who you are. Leading with authenticity means knowing your values and how you want to be seen. That way, you can make decisions that are aligned with your goals and your values and demonstrate your expectations to your colleagues and employees.
- Business Acumen. Acumen refers to the ability to make quick decisions with good judgment. It requires you to have more than just expertise in a particular field; it also means you understand the environment from which you are operating. People who exhibit this skill often are seen to simply have a “feel” for their situation, especially under pressure. The reality is that this “feel” comes from experience and from a dedicated effort to learn more than just what you need to get by.
- Relationship Building. Success in business is built on the back of trust. Without trust, it doesn’t matter how great your products are or how efficient your solutions are. Trust will build your client list, and trust will keep your team working together as a cohesive unit. Building relationships with trust as the foundation is a requirement of long-term success, and good communication skills go right along with it.
- Motivational Ability. Business culture is becoming an increasingly important component of building a stable workforce. From recruiting the best people to your team to inspiring others to do their best, being a motivational force is recognized in everyone from the ground up. The best leaders not only display passion and commitment, but they are also skilled at inspiring dedication, positivity and success among their peers and employees.
- Adaptability. Dedication and determination are important skills, but above that is the ability to be agile in an ever-changing business landscape. You must be open to new ideas and have the ability to manage change while keeping the ship steady. Resilience is another key skill to develop: Failure is inevitable, but you must be able to bounce back and continue the forward momentum when it happens.
Take Inventory of Your Skills
These essential skills are more complex than they appear on the surface. For example, you may excel at maintaining a positive, passionate environment in the workplace, but you need some practice being motivational on an individual level.
Assessing your abilities is critical as you must know where you stand so that you know where you need to grow. Ideally, this assessment would be completed by others who are in a position to know your skills so the results are objective, but that’s not always possible.
The Harvard Business Review recommends a self-assessment that walks you through 25 questions designed to pin down your leadership abilities. As you work your way through the quiz, remember to be honest with yourself; the point is to find areas to improve, not to get an A+. When you’ve finished, you can submit the quiz and receive a recap of the results to refer to as you work on your skills.
Developing the Skills to Succeed
Now that you know which areas to work on, the next task is figuring out how to develop those skills so you can become the leader you know you can be. First, IAW members receive access to virtual coaches for both career and life skills, as well as Star12 and VIP Lorman Education.
We’ve also provided a three-part blog series dedicated to helping you honestly assess your skills and weaknesses and giving actionable ideas for strengthening your leadership style, along with a few other essential leadership skills to add to your repertoire. You can also check in with your employer to see if leadership workshops or programs are offered. Not only will this be a valuable resource, but the people at the top will respect your drive for improvement.
Lastly, the internet provides a vast array of resources, and many of them are free. From seminars on YouTube to LinkedIn Learning, you’ll only be limited by the amount of time you have to dedicate to your future.