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What key skills are needed to be a good leader?

by John

Whether a supervisor, project manager or C-suite executive, leaders need a number of soft skills to help them interact positively with team members, stakeholders and clients. Effective leaders communicate clearly, delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback and motivate their teams. The good news is top leadership skills can be unlocked through a combination of education, experience and mentorship. 

Can leadership skills be improved through education?

Like all other professional competencies, leadership skills can be sharpened through education. Enrolling in an online program such as the doctorate in organizational leadership is crucial in acquiring valuable leadership skills. The Rockhurst University’s online EdD in Education and Leadership program with a concentration in organizational leadership is a two-year online degree that prepares students to become strategic and ethical leaders, gain research skills, foster an innovative culture and become influential voices for meaningful change. Here are some of the skills a course in education and leadership could help with:

Relationship building

Great workplace relationships are the foundation of a performing team. Good leaders forge strong working relationships with their employees to build cohesive and engaged teams. Relationship building is a crucial skill that makes communicating tasks, responsibilities and goals easy. Good working relationships enhance employee engagement while increasing productivity and reducing turnover rates. Besides, when a team is highly engaged and happy in their roles, the leader is more likely to be well respected. A successful leader who is also great at building relationships demonstrates the following skills:

  • Collaboration skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Social skills
  • Teamwork


Good leaders demonstrate excellent communication skills. They need to clearly explain to their juniors all aspects of organizational goals, including the specific tasks of each member of the team. Leaders should be able to think with clarity, express ideas candidly and share information effectively with groups, teams and individual employees. They should also master all forms of communication, including phone, email, chat, social media and email. When done right, leadership communication inspires trust and positive organizational change. Here are a few tips to improve communication skills:

  • Establish a steady flow of communication: Strive to remove all obstacles to effective communication. This may require adopting an open-door policy and holding regular conversions with the team.
  • Be an active listener: A crucial part of communication involves listening. As a leader, be readily available to discuss issues and concerns with the team.
  • Use non-verbal communication skills: Studies reveal about 93% of communication is nonverbal. When participating in a meeting, nonverbal communication skills can help increase trust, clarity and rapport.


In the current highly volatile marketplace, leaders often face tough situations that require difficult decisions. Decisiveness can help leaders make the right decisions at the right time and execute plans that bring desired results. While some decisions carry minor consequences, others are born out of great adversity and could affect many employees, stakeholders and partners. Without decisiveness in leadership, leaders can hesitate or postpone some actions, which may cause an organization to lag in its goals and vision. Decisiveness is a desirable trait of a good leader that demonstrates confidence and trust in their instincts, knowledge and experience. The following are key traits of decisive leaders:

  • Confidence: Decisive leaders tend to be confident when making decisions, even when faced with opposition and uncertainty. Since they have a clear vision of the desired results, they are willing to take risks to achieve them.
  • Strategic thinking: Decisive leaders can think strategically when faced with multiple options. They analyze the available information and consider the advantages and disadvantages of all available options to arrive at the most effective line of action.
  • Action-oriented: Decisive leaders are not afraid of taking bold action. They often follow through with their decisions with an effort to see the fruition of the desired outcomes.


Honesty and ethics matter a lot in the workplace. Leaders must have integrity that commands respect from those working for and above them. Integrity helps leaders build credibility with employees, clients and partners, making it essential for the overall success of the organization. Leaders who demonstrate integrity are unafraid to tell the truth or stand up for their beliefs. The following are some of the key skills that a leader with integrity shows:

  • Honesty
  • Ethics
  • Diplomacy
  • Responsibility
  • Professional
  • Confidentiality

Positive attitude

A great leader understands the value of a positive attitude in creating a healthy work environment. Studies reveal employees are more likely to be motivated and productive when they are happy and made to feel valued. Since leaders are the motivating force in their company, they should always strive to break workplace barriers and develop an optimistic and affirming outlook that inspires others. Essentially, being positive means having a solid commitment to vision and goals that enable them to persevere in the face of any obstacles.

Change management and innovation skills

We live in an era of fast-paced technological change with the potential to bring serious disruptions in the workplace. In times of change, great leadership is a key asset. Leaders need to deeply grasp change management to lead an organization through the process. One specific element of change management is innovation — a good leader should be adept at embracing it. Apart from knowing how to innovate, they should encourage innovation in those they lead. In a nutshell, a good leader should understand change, implement change and tackle resistance to change.

Problem-solving skills

Problem solving is another essential skill that every leader should have, regardless of the industry. Issues often arise on the job, and problem-solving skills can help them make quick decisions and resolve obstacles calmly and confidently. These skills enable leaders to effectively predict issues and tackle challenges through creativity and innovation. They also empower leaders to facilitate collaboration and reduce organizational exposure to risks. During a crisis, excellent problem-solving skills enable them to identify a step-by-step solution to a problem and guide their team in tackling the issue effectively. 

Key takeaway

Whether one holds a junior managerial position or a high-level executive role, their leadership abilities hold immense value in the workplace. These invaluable skills encompass effective communication, adept decision making, efficient problem solving and the ability to inspire colleagues toward a shared objective. Finally, while certain leadership traits are developed through experience, participating in a leadership program offers a valuable opportunity to expose oneself to further growth and development.

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