From the ability to give credit to leaders who are crafty problem-solvers with innovative solutions, here are 15 answers to the question, “What is one of the top skills of a great leader?”
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the quintessential sign of a powerful leader. EQ is defined as the “ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you” (Harvard Business School).
● Emotional Intelligence
● Conflict Resolution
● Clear Communication
● Creative Problem-solving
● Active Listening
● Ability to Learn from Others
● Ability to Give Credit
● Building Strong Relationships
● Top-tier Time Management
EQ comprises four major components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (The Ken Blanchard Companies). Leaders who focus on developing skills in all four areas are more empathetic to their employees; they work hard to adjust their communication styles to get the most out of their relationships; and they understand the need for continuous growth and reflection.
The goal of being a high EQ leader is to create positive and productive relationships throughout the entire organization. Companies that are filled with emotionally healthy workers see greater employee retention, satisfaction, and referrals (for both internal roles and external customers) …all leading to a more inclusive workplace.
Jennifer Stutzriem, Certified Professional Coach, Roberts Consulting Services, LLC
Leadership is an important and highly sought-after skill in today’s society, but there are certain characteristics that distinguish successful leaders from their peers. One of these “top skills” is the ability to inspire others. While often difficult to measure, great leaders instinctively know how to motivate and support those around them, facilitating progress and helping their colleagues reach their maximum potential.
One extremely well-known example of this valuable trait can be seen in Teddy Roosevelt, who applied his own principles of “the strenuous life”—emphasizing self-discipline, achievement, and courage—to rally citizens behind a common cause.
By encouraging hard work and determination through meaningful speeches and examples, Roosevelt galvanized the American public into unified action during times of hardship or divisive politics.
Michael Alexis, CEO, swag.org
One of the most important skills of a prominent leader is the ability to be vulnerable. While many people may think leaders must always be strong and confident, authentic leadership requires acknowledging and learning from mistakes, admitting when you don’t have all the answers, and being open to feedback and criticism.
Being vulnerable also helps leaders to connect with their team members on a deeper level, setting examples that build trust and foster a culture of authenticity and openness. By modeling vulnerability, leaders create an environment where others feel safe to be themselves, take risks, and learn from their failures.
Leadership like this can spark greater innovation, creativity, and overall success for the organization. Ultimately, a great leader is not someone who has all the answers but someone willing to admit when they don’t and then work collaboratively with others to find solutions.
Guna Kakulapati, Co-founder and CEO, CureSkin
It’s no secret that harmony within the team makes tasks and the day-to-day much smoother for everyone. The best leaders know how to nip conflict in the bud and maintain an environment that is conducive to productivity. This starts with their ability to practice active listening whenever an employee or two have an issue. When they can deploy empathy and active listening, they’re more equipped to arrive at a solution that is beneficial for all.
Harry Morton, Founder, Lower Street
Many times, miscommunications and missing information can get a team or relationship into a critical situation. For leaders to lead, they must have exceptional communication skills. They must be able to articulate plans clearly and be able to give clear, actionable advice to those being led. They must be able to have a good grasp of public speaking and written communication. Their communication style should help motivate others.
Great communication goes hand in hand with active listening. Leaders need to excel at listening, as this is how they can get a pulse on what is going on with their mentees. They are able to address any concern, and those they lead will feel heard, which in turn will encourage collaboration from reports.
Liz Hogan, Digital Partnerships CPRW, Find My Profession
One top skill of an effective leader is the ability to think creatively and solve problems. Outstanding leaders approach challenges with an innovative mindset and seek new and unconventional solutions.
They must be open to new ideas and encourage their team to be innovative. This allows them to navigate unexpected obstacles and find new opportunities for growth and development.
Leaders must also not be afraid to take risks and embrace failure as a necessary step toward success. By fostering a culture of creativity and experimentation, they create an environment that encourages their team to innovate and drive business results.
Michael Green, Co-founder, Winona
One of the top skills of an influential leader is active listening. Active listening helps leaders to build relationships with their team members, understand their needs and concerns, and make informed decisions. And this is crucial to building a powerful company.
When leaders actively listen to their team members, they show they value their input and are committed to working together to achieve common goals. This helps to build trust and collaboration, which are much needed for a positive work environment.
Active listening also helps leaders to identify potential issues and opportunities while understanding employees’ perspectives, which can improve performance and drive results.
On top of that, it can help leaders to develop empathy and emotional intelligence, which are important qualities for effective leadership. By understanding the perspectives and feelings of their team members, leaders can make more informed decisions and respond more effectively to challenges.
Bhante Thi-O, Founder, Poh Ern Si Penang
Narratives are more than a building block of a nation, an organization, a people, or a self. They are the intangible elements that make these things possible within a changing, dynamic reality. The ability to tell a story is one of the surest ways to forge a group of people into a purpose-driven entity. And it can be just as sure a way to blind oneself and set others along difficult pathways.
The power to tell relevant and meaningful stories is both a gift and a trained skill that all would-be leaders should seek to master. But for the truly responsible and effective leader, one who strives to bring people together and guide them in a way beneficial to all involved, a nuanced understanding of where a narrative may lead and what it may precipitate is fundamental and more significant than the consequential ability to shape one.
Tony Topoleski, Project Manager, ECA Partners
Ability to Learn from Others
One of the top skills of a prominent leader is someone who is open to learning from their employees rather than someone who creates a power hierarchy of boss and employee. Great leaders are continuously learning and aren’t afraid to ask those less experienced for their opinions and perspectives.
Asma Hafejee, Senior Marketing Executive, CMR Surgical
Contrary to popular belief, a leader does not need to be the most powerful or influential person in a room. Instead, an outstanding leader should understand their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement—as well as a willingness to learn from others.
The ability to stay humble and open-minded allows them to take advice from colleagues and experts alike, enabling them to make better decisions and foster a collaborative environment among their team. Humility also serves as an example for those under the leader, promoting respect for one another regardless of hierarchy or title.
Geoff Cudd, Founder, Don’t Do It Yourself
Although leaders can be great for many reasons, accountability is a common theme. Nothing highlights insecurity more than refusing to be held accountable, which represents a significant failure of leadership. Insecure leaders become defensive when responding to failure, readily shifting blame to direct reports or external forces.
Prominent leaders, however, take ultimate responsibility for every success and failure they face. When leaders hold themselves accountable, they take a personal interest in every aspect of the business, doing everything they can to succeed. When employees underperform, they accept the blame for failing to upskill. When market forces turn against them, they take the blame for failing to forecast effectively.
They never lay the blame elsewhere, as they know that authority is inseparable from responsibility, a lesson that only the greatest leaders seem to learn.
Ben Schwencke, Business Psychologist, Test Partnership
Ability to Give Credit
Giving credit is key. It’s easy, and as Dan Ariely says, it’s totally free. Although not complicated at first sight, empowering co-workers in this manner requires a lot of consistency. It’s also a great exercise in empathy and being mindful of everyone’s efforts.
Many leaders succeed in keeping their teams motivated, but only a few have mastered the art of maintaining the team’s spirit at its highest for an extended period of time. Charisma, firmness, and authority can be inspiring qualities, but what most motivates employees to follow their leaders is a feeling of agency. And that stems from being given credit for their input, even when it was seemingly insignificant.
Martyna Szczesniak, Community Expert, MyPerfectResume
Building Strong Relationships
One of the key skills of a great leader is the ability to build strong relationships with those around them.
I experienced this firsthand when I volunteered at a Christian school in South Africa on a mission trip. My team lead was such an excellent leader because no matter who he was speaking to, whether it was staff members, students, or parents, he could immediately establish trust and form positive connections. He had incredible skill in reading people and understanding how best to approach each situation appropriately.
Building strong relationships enabled him to motivate everyone in the group and maximize our combined efforts. This skill contributed greatly to our team’s success that week and is indispensable for any great leader.
Joe Troyer, CEO and Growth Advisor, Digital Triggers
Top-tier Time Management
Influential leaders need top-tier time management. For example, a day in the life of a leader might look like taking unexpected meetings with employees, problem-solving for issues that require management attention, preparing tomorrow’s presentation, and all the other work sitting on the desk. Great leaders know how to prioritize tasks based on urgency—with time left to spare.
Joshua Host, CEO, Thrivelab
I believe empathy is a necessary skill for leaders who truly want to impact those around them. I have found in my professional experience employees aren’t looking for sympathy, but understanding. They are looking for a leader who is sensitive and caring. When faced with a difficult situation or decision to make, a leader who operates from a place of empathy can ensure they are making the best decision for both the organization and employees.
Rene Normand, VP of Human Resources, DeanHouston, Inc.