Leadership Skills - Definition, Examples [2020 Updated]

leadership skills

If you have an interview coming up for a leadership position, you’re probably already brainstorming what leadership skills you can show off.

It’s vital for leaders to really make it clear how dedicated they are to being an actual leader. You’ll need to really boast your experience with leadership and what personality traits you think make you the ideal leader.

In this guide, we’re going to cover just about everything about leadership skills-- from common traits to underutilized leadership skills you need to put on your resume.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Table of Contents

What Are Leadership Skills?

Leadership skills are skills, abilities, and traits that one may possess that makes them an effective leader. Without a core group of leadership skills, a person may not be able to handle all of the responsibilities that they will take on in a leadership position.

In the context of employment, leadership skills are attributes that a prospective manager or supervisor will possess that allows them to improve the output of the team they manage. It is extremely wise to look at what traits you possess that make you a good leader so that those traits can be included in a resume and explored and elaborated on in a job interview.

Why Are Leadership Skills So Important in the Workplace?

Human beings are social creatures. We’re also not very self-disciplined creatures either. Because of this, we constantly need to be redirected and inspired. We also do better at tasks and jobs when we receive feedback on our work that is critical and useful. A leader can provide all of this, which is why a majority of workplace teams in any industry typically has a supervisor or manager to lead the team.

Pro tip: NACE’s Job Outlook Survey performed in 2019 mentioned that the three key skills employers want to see as part of their resume (for experienced professionals or recent graduates) is communication skills (written and verbal), problem-solving skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

A business will want to hire someone with leadership skills because to have such skills shows an ability to have interpersonal relationships that are healthy and based on collaboration. Such skills also show that you can coordinate many tasks and people, motivate others (including employees and clients) and be the glue that keeps a team together.

Related: Tell Me About A Time When You Demonstrated Leadership Skills

The Top Five Leadership Skills Found In Excellent Managers

If you want to work as a manager or supervisor, you hate to exude leadership skills. These five skills are the most common and lucrative skills one can possess.

1. Communication and People Skills

You’ll find this listed everywhere as one of the biggest attributes of a decent leader or manager. Being able to communicate involves the ability to understand your team and their needs in order to carry out strategies. A good communicator will be able to delegate conflicts between employees or conflicts between an employee and a client or customer. It is a leader’s responsibility to make sure that the team understands the tasks at hand for the project and that everyone is motivated enough to give it their full attention and energy.

2. Awareness

A great leader should also have an eye on the company's process to learn which ideas are effective and which are not. In a sense, leadership depends on the ability to observe and to learn quickly and efficiently. If a team are not performing as well as they should be at any given time, a leader should have the ability to figure out why there are issues happening and address those issues promptly and accordingly. In that same vein, a leader must be aware of how companies change over time and whether any industry-wide innovations could potentially affect competition or production, both positively and negatively.

Related: Resume Skills List (120+ Skills for the Resume)

3. Honesty

Decent leaders are not exclusively leaders who get results, though that is definitely the goal. Leaders have to also command respect and trust by being direct with their teammates and employees, as well as the greater industry of which they are an important part. Teams may not always like what their management has to say, but if the message is very honest, teams will often appreciate knowing the truth instead of being fed falsehoods and excuses. Ideally, a proper leader should also possess the unique ability to deliver truths that aren’t so good in a way that is diplomatic, so as not to alienate workers or cause undue stress.

4. Interest in Innovation

Strong leaders are typically very creative people who can recognize when changes could improve the workflow and when it can impair workflow. As well-planned and thoroughly researched as a brand process can be, it will inevitably encounter some obstacle to get past. This is simply the nature of owning a business. An innovative leader in a management position for a brand is someone who takes full responsibility for these obstacles to get past, and also is able to create a lucrative path toward bringing the work back to its intended expectations and maximum efficiency. An innovative leader is also interested in new technologies and solutions that could be used to make the lives of everyone on the team a bit easier.

5. Building Relationships

For many people, it may seem like the business world is mostly about some form of production. However, production in the business sense can continue on more efficiently when team members trust and work well with each other in the long term. In this sense, running a company is about networking and positive relationships. It is a manager or supervisor’s role to encourage healthy and positive working relationships between team members, clients, producers, customers, other management teams, and the company culture and community as a whole. When employees are able to trust each other and the company as a whole, the entire organization stands to benefit significantly from improved and increased production as well as the quality of life.

Related: Answering "What Are Your Leadership Examples?" In A Job Interview

What Makes an Effective Leader?

An effective leader is a leader with a deep passion for a specific cause or morals that are larger than the leader themselves. An effective leader is someone with a dream, a vision, and goals that will better society. Or at the very least, some portion of it or community within it. Without passion, a leader will not be able to make the necessary brave and sometimes difficult decisions and carry them into action. If a leader is not invested, they simply won’t be an effective leader.

Related: Answering "What Is Your Leadership Style?" In A Job Interview

What Are Different Ways I Could Demonstrate Leadership?

There are a number of ways you could demonstrate leadership on your resume, in an interview, and on the job:

30 Examples Of Team Leadership Skills

There are a significant number of team leadership skills out there that are very common and worth including on a resume:

If any of these qualities jump out as something you personally recognize in yourself, it may be worth including them in your resume or cover letter.

How to Showcase Your Leadership Skills in an Interview or Resume

On your resume, make sure that you’ve made room for a “skill” section. This is incredibly important to do even if you are not applying to leadership positions. A skill section allows you to provide hiring managers with an easy-to-read list of traits you possess that could benefit their company or compliment the position you’re applying for.

In an interview, you may be asked to elaborate on some of the traits listed under your skills section. This is done by the hiring manager to see if you can walk the walk and talk the talk-- lots of people put baseless buzzwords on their resumes, and your hiring manager will want to see if you actually possess leadership skills.

Before you start listing out leadership skills on your resume, think of at least one example for each skill that you could recall in the interview if you have to. For example: Your hiring manager may see that you’ve included “approachability” in your resume and wants you to describe a time in which you’ve demonstrated this skill. You could answer with a brief but clear story about a time when you took over a management position and received a lot of compliments from your team for being so easy to work with and come to when issues arose.

Related: Answering "Are You A Leader Or Follower?" In An Interview

6 Most Underutilized Leadership Skills Nobody Uses on Their Resume or Interviews (But Should!)

1. Ability to Inspire

To inspire your team is to help them continue to be excited by their job and the project at hand. A lack of inspiration in a team can lead to poor morale and the desire to just do the basics. An inspired team member will go above and beyond to see their work come to fruition. This is absolutely a leadership trait. Leaders are they to literally lead their team, so it is their responsibility to keep that team excited about the work.

2. Passion

Like inspiration, passion keeps team members invested in the project. Without passion, people are just doing their nine to five in order to make money and go home. That’s not really a career, but rather a job. When someone is passionate about their work, they don’t just mentally check out when they clock out. They constantly think about things they could do differently, new innovations to check out, etc. If a leader can invoke passion in others, they’re an excellent example and an ideal leader.

3. Commitment

Commitment takes a lot of different forms for people in leadership positions. A leader is committed to the needs of their team, the needs of the project or product, the needs of their company, etc. To be committed as a leader is to be focused on doing everything in your power to meet all of the needs that your job requires. Commitment is an underrated skill that can absolutely apply to leadership.

4. Ability to Empower Others

Empowering others means listening to them, treating them fairly, and helping them with their confidence. A team without an empowering leader may not take their jobs seriously because they don’t feel valued. A good leader takes the time to compliment their team members and remind them why they were chosen to be part of a project.

We tend to forget about this leadership skill, but it’s a very important one to have. If you can lift the morale of your team and make them feel like they’re in control of themselves and their abilities, the results could be fantastic.

5. Attention Management

As a manager or leader, there is usually a constant tug of war for your attention each and every day. Just think about the loads of emails, messages, dashboard notifications, phone calls and typical office water-cooler conversations you have on a daily basis as a leader. There are also status reports, powerpoint presentations, conferences, and meetings you have to attend. Plus, there is also all of the actual functional work you need to get done in a management position.

Unfortunately, most leaders and managers fail to give each of these tugs on your attention equal mindfulness. Being able to do this naturally is a leadership trait that could be very lucrative. If you’re good at using tools and systems for managing your workload, your interruptions and ultimately your attention will be freed up, which will allow you to dedicate your time to being a great attentive leader.

6. Ability to Talk Less and Listen More

Being a leader is not about barking orders. It’s about listening to the professionals on your team and being the one to make major decisions based on the information you’re given. Being a good listener does not usually come to mind when one thinks of leadership skills, but it’s actually a huge skill that shows how dedicated you are to working as a team, rather than just controlling a team.

Did you find some leadership skills in this guide that you had not considered before? Leadership skills can vary significantly and some skills tend to go under the radar of hiring managers as well as potential leaders themselves. We hope that this guide has helped you pick out some leadership skills to showcase at your next job interview!

Leadership FAQ's

Questions from professionals on personal leadership and effective leadership on a professional level.

What soft skill speaks to leadership the most?

There isn't one particular skill that speaks to leadership the most. Adaptability and active-listening are always going to be beneficial to a successful leader. But there isn't one effective leadership skill you should be speaking to in your resume. Good leadership skills stem from what you feel the company requires in order to achieve its objectives. A unique analysis of the organization and environment to make effective decisions about how to lead. Mentioning that you're a visionary leader or have effective communication isn't going to be enough.

How does strategic thinking play a role in leadership skills?

Strategic thinking is a requirement of an exceptional leader. The ability to project and have foresight, while forecasting the steps required in order to achieve that.

How does emotional intelligence play a part in leadership?

The definition of emotional intelligence is, "the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically." That can be described as a pretty key trait for effective management skills and generating employee engagement. Consider how you might describe your process for deploying emotional intelligence at the workplace. Empathy plays another key part in this process, as well. It is empathy that allows you to truly listen to another party and become a team-building business leader.

What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is defined as, "a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve." This is useful to define as you may be a Vice President or executive position where you are trying to assist in the active CEO versus become one. And your method of strong leadership is to disperse the vision of the leader versus having your own vision.

Other Skills Resources

Related Hiring Resources

Tell Me About A Time When You Demonstrated Leadership Skills
author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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