What are leadership skills and why are they important?

Leadership skills: they’re what separate the great from the good in the workplace. The ability to take the lead confidently and motivate others towards a shared goal is a desirable talent, underpinned by a strong set of skills.

So, what do we mean by leadership skills? Well, leading a team effectively and achieving collective goals encompasses a variety of skills and traits, from being a valuable team player to having the ideas and drive to inspire others.

Employers of all sizes value leadership expertise in key areas like communication, motivation and resourcefulness, and if you possess these skills, you could find yourself in line for a variety of rewards in return – from bonuses to promotion.

Examples of leadership skills

Leadership skills - Delphinium

There isn’t a single sole definition of leadership skills: what makes a strong leader can be subjective to a degree. On the whole, however, there are some skills that most would argue are necessary to lead, including the following:

Strong communication skills

The ability to maintain an active, productive conversation means being able to both speak and listen effectively.

Empathy (and the ability to demonstrate it)

Acknowledging every team member as an individual, with respect and understanding, is key to building a cohesive workforce.

Decision making

Leaders are tasked with making astute decisions, which requires a strong knowledge of the business and wider industry.

Ability to motivate self and others

Working towards a shared goal means being able to communicate benefits, build momentum and lift morale.

Self-awareness

Being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses – and taking action where necessary – ensures leaders are always improving themselves.

Relationship building

Accepting different perspectives, inspiring others and investing time in forging bonds builds stronger relationships.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of leadership skills, and there’s no single combination of leadership skills that creates the strongest leader. Other aspects of leadership are also important, such as personality traits and styles of leadership. You may possess these skills above, or excel in other areas of leadership; every leader is as individual as their personality and experiences, and there’s always room to grow.

Leadership skills, styles and traits: what’s the difference?

Leadership skills, styles and traits: what's the difference? - Delphinium

The terms leadership skills, traits and styles are all related, and often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same.

So, what’s the difference between leadership skills, leadership traits and leadership styles?

Leadership skills relate specifically to tasks and your ability to perform them well, such as decision-making, communication and resourcefulness.

Leadership traits relate to your characteristics and qualities of your personality, such as honesty, charisma and assertiveness.

Leadership styles are the ways in which you put your skills into practice. There are various recognised leadership styles, including autocratic, authentic and participative approaches.

Meanwhile, leadership theories explain leadership styles in more depth, an interesting example being Branchard’s situational leadership theory, which explores directive, delegative, supporting and coaching leadership styles.

As a strong leader, you’ll undoubtedly need a comprehensive skillset, but you’ll usually possess a mix of leadership traits too, and have an effective leadership style.

How do leadership skills help you?

How do leadership skills help you? - Delphinium

Leadership skills can help on a professional level, as well as in a personal capacity. In the workplace, leadership skills can help you achieve your goals, establish respect from peers or seniors, and gain the trust of others.

On a personal level, leadership skills can help with relationship building: leaders often display high levels of emotional intelligence, creativity and problem-solving abilities.

Leadership qualities of strong listening and communication skills, a confident, responsible manner, and innate motivational abilities make leaders popular people to be around.

Good leaders can find their skills helpful in a variety of ways:

Examples of the benefits of leadership skills:

  • Displaying confidence and communicating effectively with others can help open up new work opportunities.
  • Encouraging and supporting team members in realising their potential builds a strong reputation among staff.
  • A creative, innovative approach streamlines working practices for maximum efficiency, which can help reduce stress.
  • The ability to teach and mentor in the workplace is a transferable skill, enhancing employability across a range of industries.

As well as being helpful for an individual, effective leadership skills can bring about a whole host of benefits for an organisation, too, including: 

  • Enhanced workforce productivity
  • Improved morale and camaraderie
  • Competence and professional growth
  • Commitment to innovation
  • Diversity awareness

…and more. Good leadership skills play an invaluable role in an organisation’s success, motivating, supporting and influencing a team to build resilient businesses and work towards common goals.

Why are leadership skills important in the workplace?

Why are leadership skills important in the workplace? - Delphinium

Strong leadership skills are important in any workplace, across all industries, whether you work in technology or manufacturing. Regardless of your industry, a good leader uses their comprehensive abilities to propel their organisation towards success in a variety of ways.

By being a responsible leader, you understand that you’re accountable for your team’s successes and failures. You acknowledge and learn from mistakes, use feedback to form solutions, and resolve problems.

If you’re a decisive leader, you’ll analyse facts and figures to make the best decisions for your team or organisation, using sound judgement and strong perceptive skills. Decisions are not always easy to make, but as a strong leader, you’ll have the courage of your convictions to make informed choices for the greater good.

Meanwhile, as an empathetic leader, you’ll listen to your team, provide constructive feedback, help everyone achieve their own goals and build camaraderie, getting the best from each individual and fostering team spirit.

Depending on the workplace and industry, different leadership skills may come to the fore. For example, a project manager in a commercial business may need a set of leadership skills with a focus on motivation and strong communication to meet deadlines and ensure optimum team performance.

In fact, just over half of project managers believe that soft skills are more important today than in the past, and almost 80% of top-performing organisations cite leadership skills as a growing priority.

How to showcase leadership skills on your CV 

How to showcase leadership skills on your CV - Delphinium

Leadership skills can be showcased on your CV, highlighting the strengths and abilities that are likely to impress employers on the lookout for proven leaders, or those with potential.

The ability to lead is desirable – both for individuals and employers. If you possess leadership skills, you can assist in developing high-performing teams and increase organisational profitability – in some cases by more than double – in return, achieving promotion or recognition for yourself.

On your resume, you can include leadership skills in the achievements section, in relation to any awards or special commendations you’ve received that illustrate leadership-specific abilities.

They can also feature in the skills section of your CV – especially if an employer is looking for particular qualities your referees will be able to vouch for.

In addition to including leadership skills on your CV, the covering letter provides an extra opportunity to draw attention to key abilities. Including a couple of accomplishments that demonstrate your sharp leadership skills can help concentrate a hiring manager’s mind, setting you apart from other candidates from the get-go.

To add leadership skills to your resume, try these following tips:

  • Include words related to leadership throughout the body of your CV
  • Tailor your CV to the leadership skills mentioned in the job specification
  • Use examples of projects or achievements related to leadership skills
  • Include the results of these examples to create a compelling CV

For more tips on writing a standout CV, and the right words to use, take a look at Reed’s comprehensive CV writing guide.

Examples of strong leaders

Examples of strong leaders - Delphinium

History shows that strong leaders have emerged throughout the ages, rising to global prominence through their accomplishments.

Whether in government or in business, the leaders who have become household names – even, in some cases, decades after having departed this world – have achieved this status through memorable leadership styles and qualities.

From the dozens of leaders known on a global scale, here are four examples of strong leadership.

Bill Gates

Cofounder of Microsoft, the world’s largest personal computer software company, Bill Gates has inspired countless entrepreneurs around the world after becoming the world’s youngest self-made billionaire in 1987.

Possessing impressive skills in creative thinking and practical innovation abilities, Bill’s strong decision-making helped him make important choices that changed the technology industry forever, transforming him into one of the most respected businessmen in the world today.

Jacinda Ardern

The New Zealand prime minister impressed the world with her response the Covid-19 pandemic, taking proactive measures to protect her citizens and anticipating how the situation would unfold.

Jacinda’s strong communication skills and empathy have set an example of leadership that builds trust and respect. She takes a collaborative approach to leading and problem solving, saying that “leadership is not about necessarily being the loudest in the room, but instead being the bridge, or the thing that is missing in the discussion and trying to build a consensus from there”.

Martin Luther King

Civil rights spokesman Martin Luther King led the fight against racial segregation in the southern states of the USA during the 1950s and 60s, inspiring others – both in the US and abroad – to take action.

Lauded as a compelling communicator, MLK’s put his skills to use in rousing speeches that were as motivational as he was charismatic. A natural teacher and mentor, MLK was able to effectively collaborate with others to create positive change.

Louise O’Shea

Chief executive of the UK’s longest-running insurance marketplace Confused.com, Louise O’Shea doubled the company’s operating profits in her first two years in the role.

A firm advocate of regular, meaningful communication, Louise builds relationships with employees by adding personal touches to her regular emails, celebrating achievements and sharing inspirational points, which help to build morale.

These are just a few inspirational examples of strong leadership – there are more to be found here. It’s worth remembering, however, that some of the most inspirational leaders may be closer to home, and witnessed in day to day life.

What leadership skills do I have?

What leadership skills do I have? - Delphinium

There are a number of ways to discover what leadership skills you possess, and which skills you might seek to develop.

Personal reflection

Consider your performance in various leadership skills that are important to your role, such as delegation, empathy and decision-making. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being very poor and 10 being outstanding, what score would you give yourself for each skill?

Strengths profiling

To achieve a more scientific result, you could use a psychometric tool that shows your areas of strengths and areas for improvement. At Delphinium, we use Strengthscope, a comprehensive strengths assessment that assesses how well you use your abilities and what makes you a unique leader.

Feedback

Another way to identify which leadership skills you possess and potential areas for improvement is through feedback from other people. Speak to people you trust; what leadership skills do they see you performing well in?

Find out your Leadership Skills Score

We’ve created a Leadership Skills Scorecard, which gives you a snapshot of where you currently stand with regards to your leadership skills, and which areas you need to focus on to make progress.

Our scorecard poses a series of questions to explore your performance in a variety of leadership areas, such as delegation, confidence, empathy, change and motivation, and assesses your responses. You’ll then receive an overall leadership score. Ready to find out how strong your skills are?

The growing need for strong leadership skills

The growing need for strong leadership skills - Delphinium

Why do leadership skills matter? Because now, more than ever before, markets and industries are changing at a rapid pace.

As the economy and wider society changes, leadership has emerged as the number one talent issue facing organisations. Deloitte’s UK Human Capital Trends 2019 survey revealed that less than 10% of organisations feel their leadership programmes are effective in preparing leaders to face the challenges of the digital economy.

As our world continues to develop at high speed, the leadership skills gap threatens to widen. Organisations need leaders who possess the right skills to respond to these changes and drive businesses towards success.

Fortunately, with so many resources now at our collective disposal, there are unbridled opportunities to establish and develop key leadership skills.

Online tutorials, leadership skills coaching, peer groups on social media… all of these resources – and more – are readily available and often easily accessible if you’re looking to upskill in leadership.

At Delphinium we’re here to support you in developing your leadership skills and abilities. To discuss how we can do so, call us now on 0161 949 9736 or book you’re your no-obligation Discovery Call.

Gemma Rolstone

Gemma Rolstone

Helping good managers to become great leaders