leadership skills

6 skills every leader needs (3 for the real pros)

We talk a lot, here at Padraig, about skills that good leaders need. We know from working with a lot of fantastic clients what you need in the boardroom and on the frontline to truly be a good leader.

Sometimes referred to as “soft skills,” if you don’t have them and you’re trying to learn them, soft skills can be hard work. But it’s hard work that will pay off. Now in any endeavour, we start our with limited skill and we practise, and watch and learn and try again until we get better and better.

Maybe someday, we become a pro. Leadership is like that too.

Today we’re giving you a taste of some of the skills leaders need. The first three apply to all of us whether we’re just starting out, whether we’re mentoring someone else as they start out, or whether we’re experienced and we need to stay on top of them ourselves. Then we dive into the next three to challenge you if you think you’re ready to step into the big leagues and really inspire people.

Let’s start by talking about the first three skills, the ones we all need to use and if you’re a senior leader, they’re the ones you need to mentor others to use.

New leaders are often in a position where they are moving from working with their peers to managing them. This alone is a challenging transition never mind learning the required skills, tasks, and responsibilities of their new role.

What, then, can you do to set new leaders up for success (or yourself if you’re the new leader)?

Three skills that can help ease the transition and set you or your new leaders up for success are:

Delegate

This can be tough at first. New leaders are typically so keen to do a great job that they don’t like to put the fate of their performance in the hands of others. But, it’s counterintuitive. Great leadership can be measured by the ability to delegate, trust your team, and secure an outstanding work product from those around you.

Understanding the importance of delegation to their own performance, team morale, and plain old efficiency is a crucial first skill for new leaders. The sooner you get behind this one, the better.

Remember, delegate doesn’t mean hand it off and walk away. It means give the responsibility to your staff and then stay engaged and accountable — guiding, teaching and coaching them when they need it.

Giving and receiving feedback

Oh boy, another critical leadership skill that often gets overlooked. We’ve worked with so many leaders who would rather not rock the boat with their team and would rather try to maintain harmony by avoiding uncomfortable conversations.

How often have you thought to yourself “maybe this will just go away,” or “maybe they’ll figure it out before I have to say anything.” But, being able to give feedback in a way that improves performance, improves work product, and helps the team members, goes a long way to team cohesiveness.

Equally as important is developing the ability to receive feedback as a new leader. Being open to hearing from mentors, peers, and team members about how you can improve is one of the fastest ways to course correct any bad habits or tendencies. Receiving feedback well (and applying it appropriately) can catapult a new leader from rookie to pro in no time.

Goal Management

Ok, so you’re great at delegating and you give and receive feedback like a champ.

Another initial skill to master is what we call Goal Management — yes, that is goal setting but it’s also, delivering on the goal. Goal management is the vehicle that takes you and your team from where you are to where you want to be. Knowing how to lead your team to identify goals AND ACHIEVE THEM is the first step to achieving organizational goals and without it, you’ll be lost as a new leader.

So what’s your approach? Who do you engage in setting goals? How often do you check in to make sure the team is on course toward those goals? We so often make great plans and then, subconsciously, set them aside to deal with the daily workload, the crisis du jour, the next big thing that comes along. One key step that will boost your success is to commit to and build-in a check-in process and sticking to that process as you go.

Do you have weekly or bi-weekly check-ins with your team members? Have those meetings become a review of what’s urgent? What’s looming? What we need to tackle this week?

If so, it’s time to build in a few moments to take a step back, to look at your bigger previously agreed upon goals, and figure out if you’re on track. Even with the day-to-day challenges, are they still on the right path to the bigger goals? Are you helping them have time and energy to tackle the bigger goals? Are you rewarding success toward the longer term goals, or only success in the short term crisis after crisis?

These alone will help to smooth the transition for any new leader but what about the deeper layers for pro status?

You won’t likely see these listed in many job descriptions but without them, your opportunities may become limited.

Humility

I’ve seen it time and time again, a new leader tries to overcompensate for their lack of leadership experience by suppressing vulnerability and acting more confident than they actually are. This, to us here at Padraig, is a big mistake and a lost opportunity. By practicing humility and embracing where you are in your leadership journey, you open yourself up to greater understanding, connection, and room for growth. It took some of us a long time to realize it but you’ll be more successful being humble and transparent then trying to prove you’ve got it all mastered.

Self-awareness

Understanding how you have an impact on those around you, and knowing how they see you, is wildly underrated as a leadership skill. It’s only when we know ourselves, and how others see us, that we can learn to adapt and shift our approach, to better relate to each individual. That’s true, and essential, whether you’re leading a team or interacting with prospective clients. You have to know how others see you and how you’re being received.


We have some amazing assessment tools to help with that and, of course, this is one area where a coach can be a huge help. If you’re able to anticipate how your role moves people (or doesn’t) you can make adjustments to your approach and soon you, and your team, will be making huge wins.

Desire to serve others

This one is really about mindset. A simple desire to be helpful is a useful skill for any human but, as a leader, if you’re able to use that as a lens through which you see your team, it’ll provide enormous returns. Leaders whom we trust and want to follow achieve moral authority by being servants to followers and organizations, not by wielding titles or using coercive power. First popularized by Robert K Greenleaf, this philosophy is endorsed by such greats as Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey and Peter Senge. Of course, achieving this requires a great deal of humility.

Our Coach’s Questions

How deep are you in your leadership strength? Which of the skills we’ve talked about would you like to practise and promote? What will you do today to advance those skills?