9 leadership skills to develop

Updated 14 August 2023

Leadership is a highly sought out quality that encompasses many different skills and personality traits, all of which can either occur naturally in an individual or be developed over time. You can use leadership skills in any industry and any role, especially if you're in a leadership role or are striving for one. In this article, we take a look at the 9 leadership skills and how you can develop them to reach your career goals.

What are leadership skills?

Leadership skills are the abilities used in organising people and teams to reach a common goal. These skills enable you to provide clear instructions, delegate responsibilities, set achievable goals, motivate others and manage deadlines. Leadership skills cover a huge range of different attributes, including personality traits and developed skills.

Related: How to improve leadership skills (with additional tips)

9 leadership skills

There are many different leadership skills, and a good leader will have a versatile mix of skills that can be put to excellent use in a variety of roles. These leadership qualities can be nurtured and developed through your career to help you, your colleagues and your company to progress and to achieve goals together. Developing these skills can give you a great foundation for moving into leadership roles and make you a more effective employee:

  • Goal-setting and planning

  • Communication

  • Delegation

  • Dependability

  • Integrity

  • Decisiveness

  • Motivation

  • Conflict management

  • Team building

Related: 11 Essential Professional Business Skills

1. Goal-setting and planning

Goal-setting skills involve being able to establish small and large objectives that relate to the larger good of the organisation. Planning skills are those used to create a series of smaller goals or steps that lead to reaching a larger objective. With these skills, you can determine the resources in your team, set realistic goals based on those resources and then assign tasks to individual team members so that everyone is working towards the goal.

Related: Goal-setting templates (And when to use them)

2. Communication

Communication skills include being able to write, listen, speak and present information to others clearly and efficiently. Having effective communication skills also enables you to determine the best mode of communication for specific messages, such as an email versus an in-person meeting.

Related: Why is communication important? (And how to improve it)

3. Delegation

This skill refers to your ability to assign tasks to others, including tasks you as a leader need help with completing. When you delegate effectively, you're able to select the best team member for the task and provide them with clear instructions.

Related: What is delegation? (Including types and benefits)

4. Dependability

Dependability and reliability refer to being someone others can trust to complete a task right and on time as well as help when help is needed. This quality involves setting a standard of behaviour and work ethic, such as punctuality or kindness, that others can depend on you to maintain in the workplace. Being dependable also means leading by example to encourage others to do the same.

Related: 7 key strengths to help you advance your career prospects

5. Integrity

Having integrity means being honest and sticking to your morals, regardless of the pressure you're under. Integrity also involves accountability for your actions or mistakes, and a great leader may even hold themselves accountable for their team's errors or downfalls. A leader with integrity can also lead by example and encourage their team members to also hold themselves accountable for goals, actions and mistakes, too.

6. Decisiveness

Being decisive means quickly making educated and high-quality decisions, even under pressure. Leaders with effective decisiveness can clearly understand the options and consequences of a decision. It also involves having in-depth industry knowledge and experience, so this skill can be developed over time.

7. Motivation

Being able to motivate others is necessary to convince team members to complete tasks, reach goals and develop in their own careers. Having self-motivation is also important to finishing your own work, reaching your own objectives and leading by example.

8. Conflict management

This ability is when you are able to mediate between parties who have different stances on a topic or situation. You would use conflict management to understand each side's argument, assist in researching all arguments, mediate a discussion between the parties and move the conversation towards a compromise.

Related: How to mediate conflicts (With definitions and steps)

9. Team building

This skill involves identifying strengths and areas for improvement in each team member to create strong teams with the necessary skills and compatible personalities. Team building also involves being able to promote collaboration and support by providing training and bonding activities that allow teams to get to know each other better as professionals.

Related: Team building skills: definition and examples

How to develop your leadership skills

Developing leadership skills can help with your own personal development and career progression as well as set you apart from other candidates. Ultimately, good leadership skills take practice and require honing your own personal style of leadership. Here are several ways to develop your leadership skills:

  1. Identify your leadership style

  2. Learn from proven leaders

  3. Have a mentor

  4. Find leadership resources

  5. Take leadership courses

1. Identify your leadership style

Leadership is as much about personality as it is about management skills, which means that every leadership style can be different. The industry and role you work in may also influence your leadership style.

The important thing to note though is that there is no right or wrong style of leadership. While some people find they lead best from the front or work best when motivating their colleagues, others may find that they lead better from afar or are more adept at managing larger goals than micromanaging. By identifying which leadership style you have or which style you want to use, you can refine the skills needed for that style and find opportunities to keep improving.

Related: 8 Effective Leadership Tips

2. Learn from proven leaders

Learning from proven leaders can help you determine the characteristics of specific leadership styles and which styles you'd prefer to use in the workplace. You can also learn how other leaders have used their skills and qualities to exemplify a certain leadership style successfully.

The proven leaders you choose to learn from could be a well-known celebrity figure, business owner, industry leader or politician, like the prime minister for instance. It can also be someone in your office or company or even an important friend or family member who has inspired you.

Related: What is stakeholder management? (Benefits and importance)

3. Have a mentor

Having a mentor means learning directly from a leadership figure who can help you to hone your own skills for the future. This mentor could be an experienced colleague, a professor, an industry leader or a network connection. You can consult with this person to identify which leadership style works best for you, find leadership resources to study and provide you with feedback on issues you face or your style overall.

Related: How to find a mentor: a useful step-by-step guide

4. Find leadership resources

There are many resources available that can help you develop your leadership qualities, including self-guided options and more hands-on practical experiences. You can read newspapers or industry publications for interviews and news on leaders you admire. You can listen to podcasts that feature industry leaders or are focused on professional development. Try also watching documentaries or attending lectures or talks presented by your favourite inspirational figures.

5. Take leadership courses

In addition to books or podcasts, you can be even more proactive in developing your leadership skills. There is a wide range of leadership courses available that can take you through the process of identifying and developing your abilities.

In leadership courses, you'll learn from proven leaders using proven techniques. At the end of these courses, you may even have a qualification that you can then write on your CV and present at your next job interview. Courses can vary in length and structure, but you can find online courses and more traditional classroom-based learning opportunities too.

Related: How to become a chief of staff

How to highlight leadership skills

When looking for a new role, you can showcase your leadership skills on your CV and during an interview.

Highlighting leadership skills on a CV

You can include your leadership skills in a 'Skills' section on your CV, which might be a great option if you're an entry-level with less experience. If you have more experience or are applying for a leadership role, consider incorporating leadership skills into the descriptions in your 'Experience' section.

Example: Lead a team to complete a rush project, managing weekly deadlines and delegating tasks to the appropriate team members.

Related: Discover the leadership words for a CV and how to use them

Highlighting leadership skills during an interview

In an interview, you may be asked directly about your leadership skills or style. In other cases, you may be asked situational questions that allow you to discuss your leadership skills or style in the context of your previous experience.

Example: 'In my role as senior IT technician, I hosted weekly meetings with my team to discuss upcoming network updates, workflow strategies and deadlines for projects. I also assigned work tickets to each team member based on their individual expertise and availability'.

Related: 52 Team Leader Interview Questions and Answers

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