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What Are Leadership Skills and how to develop them?

Written by Russ Gadzhiev, Ph.D.


“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis


“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself, when you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch 


“My own definition of leadership is this: the capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”                         – General Montgomery


Leadership skills include various abilities and competencies which help people to oversee processes at work, provide guidance to others and help employees achieve the required goals and objectives.

Many talented leaders can do things that other people cannot. They can translate their company’s plans into reality. They have great faith in their teams. They know how to motivate and inspire their colleagues and employees. They have no difficulty making strong connections with them. They are great mentors – they coach and guide their employees and steer them towards their company’s goals. They inspire their colleagues to discuss different ideas and encourage dialogues between them.


Core Leadership Skills


Although leadership skills include all these important competencies there are some core competencies and skills that play the most important role in one’s career development. Let’s have a look at some of these skills and discuss their importance. 


Taking initiative.

True leaders don’t like to wait until they are told what to do – they are very proactive, and they know what needs to be done.




Active listening skills.

Being an effective communicator is indispensable when it comes to core leadership skills. For a leader, communication skills are important as they help achieve many professional goals. Thanks to communication skills, leaders can make presentations for their teams, write an effective business strategy, or simply communicate with employees and stakeholders.




The most important communication skill for any leader is active listening. If you don’t possess good listening skills, you are simply not able to hear your colleagues and get feedback from them. You will not be able to understand how your company is doing. 

It is very important for leaders to be able to listen to their employees and their team. Only by listening to your colleagues will you be able to be informed about everything that is happening in your company. Your colleagues and employees can tell you objectively what can be and what cannot be achieved. 

To be a good listener, you need to remember several things. Make sure you maintain good eye contact with your interlocutor, and don’t allow distractions to get in the way of your communication with other people. Remember about your gestures and body language. 


Being able to motivate people.

Genuine leaders always exert enormous influence on other people. When your employees and colleagues are facing a difficult task or struggling to achieve their goals, they can feel disheartened or demotivated. This is when leaders should intervene and inspire them. A good and genuine leader will always recognize that their workers are disheartened. He or she will listen to them carefully and assure them that their work is valued and needed.




Moreover, a true leader not only supports their individual workers but also tries to contribute to the development of a positive work environment. True leaders always think about how to develop a system of rewards and motivate others to achieve better results. 



True leaders are always disciplined. No matter how talented you are, if you are not disciplined, you will not achieve anything. So, self-discipline is very important. It helps you manage your thoughts, control your emotions, and do work even if you don’t feel like doing it.




The ability to resolve conflicts or “conflict management”

A true leader can handle and resolve conflicts efficiently and in a fair manner. Conflicts inevitably occur in any working place and sometimes they occur daily. In fact, all sorts of tensions and disagreements are a normal part of the work of any team. 

Leaders need to evaluate these conflicts correctly and not overstep boundaries. True leaders try to refrain from resorting to authoritarian approaches and never try to pull their rank as it can only increase tensions within the team.


Conflict Management


How to Develop Leadership Qualities


So, what can we do to develop leadership qualities and improve our chances of becoming a true and efficient leader? 


Remember the importance of discipline.

As we have discussed earlier, any leader must have sufficient discipline and so it is important to practice this skill as often as possible. Your colleagues and employees will appreciate you for that.

One of the easiest ways to practice discipline at work is to make yourself meet deadlines. If you have always been slightly disorganized, start by making small steps. You can also incorporate small but useful habits into your routine such as exercising daily and waking up early. 


Learn how to listen to others.

Be attentive to people’s suggestions, ideas, and feedback. Use these suggestions and build on them. Pay attention to their body language. Maintain good eye contact. Try not to interrupt the person who is speaking to you. Don’t think about your response while you are listening to the person – focus on the non-verbal cues instead and the speaker’s body language.


Learn, learn, and learn.

Be a lifelong learner. Dr Kim Janson, an executive coach, and the CEO of Janson Associates once said, “Just because you are successful in one role doesn’t immediately give you the knowledge, skills and subject matter expertise in the other”. So don’t forget about the importance of learning. Learn from your experience, from your failures and mistakes. Seeking knowledge will help you always be abreast of recent events and development. Remember the business world is a rapidly changing environment and only learning will help you stay up to date. Remember about the importance of a “growth mindset”, that is, being ready to improve your skills, abilities, and emotional intelligence. 


Learn to look at the bigger picture.

All good leaders are always able to foresee problems before they arise. Such a skill is critical to leaders’ ability to oversee complex projects and meet tight deadlines. 


Learn how to delegate tasks to others.

Successful leaders do not try to micromanage their employees. Theodore Roosevelt once correctly said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants to be done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it”. When leaders delegate works to their employees, they involve them more in the working process. Involved employees will also develop new skills. They will also feel empowered. As a leader, remember to establish clear rules, assign responsibilities, and provide deadlines. All of that is important for delegating tasks and getting the job done.




Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses.

To be a good leader, you need to be aware of what you are good at and what you are not that good at. Perhaps you can even make a list of your strengths and weakness. Once you have identified your strong and weak points, you can decide which ones are worth working on.


Read more and educate yourself.

If you are only starting to make the first steps in leadership, you need to educate yourself about the existing leadership theories and concepts. So, it may be worthwhile to make a reading list, which includes broad theories about the principles of leadership and then narrow it down to the issues that are of interest to you. If you are still not sure where to begin, you can start reading about ways of improving your management skills.


Know Yourself


While reading can certainly help you become more well-versed in management and business leadership, joining a training program can make even a bigger difference. Most of the existing business training programs are interactive and apart from learning about new concepts you can talk with experts and other people interested in business and leadership.


Don’t forget to work on your soft skills.

Soft skills are various interpersonal skills that can help you get the job done. They are usually about interacting with other people. Again, you can make a list of all skills that you possess. Then identify soft skills among them and think about which ones need improvement. For example, you may realize that you need to improve your communication or time management skills.




Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese. 


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Chris is from Devon, in the south of England. He has been teaching English as a foreign language for over six years and has taught in China, the UK, Hungary and Spain. He has a background in Music and studied Composition at the RSAMD in Glasgow, Trinity Laban in London and at the University of York. After finishing his master’s at York, he travelled to China to teach and fell in love with it. He has been teaching ever since.

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