Updated 23 May 2020
For anyone looking to progress to a management position or show their effectiveness when faced with authority, leadership skills are a must.
From guidance as to what skills good leadership requires and why it matters, to the top 10 leadership interview questions that you're likely to encounter, we have you covered.
One of a range of soft skills required to succeed in many workplaces, leadership skills fall under the umbrella of talents that can’t be demonstrated through paperwork or qualifications alone.
Non-technical in style, leadership skills are exactly what they sound like – they are the skills required to be a good leader, whether that’s acting as a team lead, working as a manager, or taking on an even more senior position.
Unlike industry-specific skills, leadership skills are entirely transferable. These kinds of soft skill aren’t based on a tangible element of a particular vocation.
Leadership is a universal skill that is more connected to people than it is to the role itself and, therefore, is relevant in a wide range of different fields and disciplines.
For candidates considering moving into more internally-focused or management-based roles, proving leadership skills is vital. Personality, initiative and interaction are all as important in a working environment as specific qualifications.
A candidate who is capable of demonstrating excellent leadership skills is one step ahead of the competition and shows potential employers – or existing ones – just how likely they are to succeed in the longer term.
Qualifications may come and go, but the ability to lead well is consistently required for success in just about any career.
Leadership is undoubtedly a skill that employers are looking for – but why is it so important?
So, what are the most important skills needed to be an effective leader?
For a leader to be successful, they must motivate those around them to achieve more, go the extra mile and do better in their work. This motivation goes beyond simply providing verbal encouragement; it can include offering team members tangible rewards for their effort through recognition, improved responsibility and even physical rewards. Providing employees with better autonomy and productive work is key to maintaining high motivation.
Leaders need first-rate communication skills. Being open to discussing issues, solving problems or forming objectives with employees are all vital elements of good leadership. A leader will also have to chair team meetings, give persuasive presentations and liaise effectively with clients.
In any workplace, positivity can provide the extra support that employees need during stressful times. Excellent skills in empathy and friendliness, as well as the ability to effectively manage conflict and stress, are good indicators of positive leadership.
A great leader will know that delegating work, rather than taking it all on themselves, is the vital ingredient to successful projects. Knowing when to delegate work effectively also indicates that the leader can identify the strengths and weaknesses of their colleagues. They will use expectations, performance and resources to ensure that the work is completed as a team, rather than in isolated parts.
When it comes to finding the right answers or making the best decisions, the solution isn’t always a straight line. That’s why it’s vital for leaders to have creativity when it comes to their responses – a leader isn’t afraid to take the less-used path.
If employees are uncomfortable or unwilling to approach a leader, then the trust between the leader and their team is broken. When employees believe in their leader’s integrity, it is beneficial for the honesty and accountability in the workplace as a whole. A trusted leader is a far more effective one.
As a leader, the responsibility for both failures and successes should be on your shoulders. This means taking full ownership for the actions of yourself or your team, as well as being willing to accept blame and seek solutions when required.
A leader’s responsibility isn’t just in managing workplace relationships. It’s also vital that they take a view of the bigger picture when it comes to the completion of work, especially managing timelines and schedules. Providing realistic deadlines, communicating them clearly and understanding the need for flexibility are vital.
Whether it is encouraging an employee to ‘buy in’ to a project, step outside their comfort zone or improve productivity, a leader should have the influence to encourage that improvement. A positive influence is a vital skill that will help a leader support their co-workers, and encourage them to go further and do more.
Understanding what decision to make and when to make it is a must for any good leader. Being able to provide answers to questions promptly and effectively ensures that schedules are not interrupted.
Leadership skills can be demonstrated most effectively through real examples of their use, whether in the workplace, in your personal life or in academia.
It’s important to not just list the skills you feel you have; show how you used them.
From leading as part of an undergraduate group project to acting in a shift lead capacity at a weekend job, there are examples of good leadership available in many different contexts.
Any examples from your CV should be followed up consistently in an interview. It’s essential to be truthful about the skills you possess, as potential employers will notice if there are discrepancies between what you say and how you act.
Professionalism, decisiveness and great communication during your interview itself are all effective ways to demonstrate your leadership skills.
With so many different elements making up an excellent leader, it can be difficult to pinpoint which skills are particular strengths for you.
Being a good leader isn't about being ‘good on paper'. An individual with good leadership skills is able to:
When demonstrating your leadership skills, focus on what you can do and the experiences you have had. Never simply include a list; provide tangible evidence.
Leadership isn't just one consistent skill; the requirements and style will vary from business to business and team to team.
The ability to adapt, acknowledge your environment and be comfortable in your own skin are all of great advantage.
Demonstrating these abilities will show any interviewer just how suitable you are – and will help them to see the promise you could bring to their workplace.
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