TONIKA BRUCE

The 10 Crucial Leadership Skills Today for Executives to Boost Their Career

crucial leadership skills

The 10 Crucial Leadership Skills Today for Executives to Boost Their Career

With the race to become the best and high-performing businesses in the marketplace intensifies, recruiters are looking for qualified candidates who possess excellent leadership skills. It’s no wonder the need to hire MBA graduates for executive positions is rising among top companies.

Leadership skills is a topic widely covered by experts and amateurs alike- discussing the core competencies that differentiate leadership capacity, yet most continue to rely on familiar skills. 

Although it is critical to have a strong foundation in what you do best, leaders, even the most experienced, intentionally find ways to evolve by learning new skills and strategies to manage their people.

While leadership skills have been pretty standard over the years, the changing and fast-paced business world demands a fresh look at which skills are most valuable today.

  • What areas of development should new executives be working on to meet the demand of the modern marketplace?
  • How can these skills help aspiring leaders succeed in leadership positions?
  • What are the practical ways to develop or implement these skills in the workplace?

We explore these and more helpful insights in this article.

What Leadership Skills Mean for Business

They say that leadership is integral to success in any field or endeavor. It couldn’t be truer than in the realm of business. On point leadership skills are essential for generating successful outcomes in companies of all sizes.

Leaders set the tone for their organizations; they establish the culture and values that guide their employees’ behavior and decision-making.

Therefore, they play a central role in creating an organization that produces desired results.

Leadership plays a huge role in the growth and ensuring business thrive. At the heart of any venture is the human capital- the employees’ productivity directly impacts the profits realized.

Here are some recent statistics from Zippia that back up this: 

  • 79% of employees will quit due to a lack of appreciation from the leaders
  • 83% of organizations believe it is important to develop leadership at all company levels, but only 5% have implemented leadership development at all levels.
  • Only 10% of people are natural leaders
  • 69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were appreciated.
  • Companies with employee engagement are 22% more profitable.

The statistics indicate the necessity of having solid leadership to drive change, team engagement and results. Leaders are in charge of creating cohesiveness in the different groups working in a company- when this is lacking, it gives rise to disengagement and high turnover of otherwise excellent talent. 

It is true that performance metrics vary among different work groups, such as baby boomers, 

Millennials, and Gen Zers, due to the inconsistency in people management skills. 69% of the largest group in the workforce currently, the millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000), say there is a lack of leadership development. 

This matters because of the critical connection between employee engagement in business and the KPIs- productivity, customer metrics, profitability, quality product, less absenteeism, and misappropriation of company resources. 

Leadership boosts employee performance, which makes everything better across all levels in the business.

On the sunny side, there is opportunity and strengths to build on. With more than 83% of businesses and recruiters realizing the need and benefit of building leaders, there is room for more leadership positions to take up. 

While only 10% are natural leaders, 20% have inherent abilities that need refining, and the rest can build capacity to lead through training and leadership programs to direct to the appropriate channels.

The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 found companies that take an inclusive approach to leadership training have 4.2 times more success than those that left this reserve only for the management groups.

That said, these are the most popular ways leaders want to learn:

  • External coaching 48%
  • Developmental assignments 48%
  • Assignments to diagnose leadership strengths 42%
  • Formal-in person training 39%

Source: DDI Leadership Forecast Survey

People who undertake leadership training that teaches practical leadership in addition to theory show a 25% increase in learning and 25% in performance. 

In-Demand Leadership Skills for Today's Executives

The key to success lies in understanding human nature. The need for divergent needs can be met with various means, from motivating and clarifying individuals down to managing them well to reach their full potential as members of your team or organization.

The performance of any group is strongly influenced by how each member feels and engages in the group. It takes refined skills in people management and adaptability to maximize these human desires for business performance.

1. Networking and Relationship Building

Based on the research by Gallup and others above, employee engagement is a top priority for the current workforce. Whether a leader is people-oriented or not, they will need this skill at least for the sole reason of creating good working relations.

The other reason why this skill ranks high is the modern workplace is increasingly getting complex and interconnected. They are expected to navigate these complex systems and build relationships with the people within them. 

Business management has become more about collaboration and consensus-building than it was in the past; to get things done, they must bring people together and build relationships of trust. 

Not to mention, the global economy has made the competition more intense than ever before. 

Today, leaders need to be able to develop strong relationships with allies and partners to create a competitive advantage. That means proactively networking online and offline.

Practical Ways to Cultivate Relationships

  • Be present and approachable. Employees and partners alike appreciate feeling like they can talk to you, confide in you, and come to you with questions or concerns. When you are regularly present and open to hearing what others have to say, it helps build trust and foster a more supportive working environment.
  • Make time for one-on-one interactions. Even if it is just for a quick catch-up chat or lunch meeting once in a while, taking the time to engage the team members on work progress and challenges.
  • Attend company events. It shows that you are interested in connecting with your employees and helps create a more enjoyable work environment. It also shows that you value their time outside of work hours.
  • Get involved in community outreach and industry initiatives. Industry events are a great way to connect with local leaders and organizations.
  • Team Building activities. Team building has always been a big part of most company cultures, but with mental illnesses on the rise and burnout, this has become just more urgent. As the leader, you get brownie points that strengthen your relationships. 

Related: 5 Questions to Assess Your Leadership Skills

2. Negotiation

The ability to negotiate is a plus that hiring managers and companies look for in executives in this competitive, globalized, and interconnected modern marketplace. 

Why? First, the globalization of markets has created new opportunities for companies to expand their operations overseas. However, these expansionary efforts often entail complex negotiations with local partners, government officials, and other stakeholders. Without solid negotiation skills, business leaders will find it tough to navigate these interactions.

Second, the accelerating pace of change in many industries means that businesses must constantly renegotiate agreements with suppliers, customers, and employees. Those who are adept at negotiating will be better able to protect their company.

Practical Ways to Negotiate Better

  • Model Trust. No matter the outcome in negotiations, trust makes the process smoother if the leader has a reputation for reliability. Trust also creates room for future possibilities of doing business.
  • Take the democracy approach. Offer options. When negotiating with employees or external groups giving choices shows a level of respect.

Related: 3 Ways to Increase Customer Trust

3. Ability to Train Others

83% of organizations believe it is important to develop leadership at all business unit levels. 

Modern organizations are looking for leaders who can also build more leaders to take charge and responsibility even in the small operational units. Training is an essential management skill that requires the leader to teach those under them, give constructive feedback, and motivate.

Practical ways to incorporate training in leadership

Encourage Them to Take on Responsibilities. One of the best ways to train someone in leadership skills is to encourage them to take on more responsibilities within the team. Give them small tasks or assignments at first and then gradually increase the scope and complexity of what they are responsible for. Handling more responsibility, they will naturally start to develop leadership qualities.

Provide Opportunities for Mentorship and Skill-Building. Another practical way to train someone for leadership is to provide opportunities. Offer challenges and contests.

4. Self-Awareness

One element of leadership excellence is having leaders who understand their strengths and weaknesses. Leaders need to know themselves before they can effectively lead others, so part of a core skill for executives should involve introspection and identifying areas where they need to improve.

Anthony Tjan sums self-awareness into three parts which everyone can borrow from-“know thyself, improve thyself and complement thyself.”

Practical Ways to Build Self-Awareness

  • Conduct an evaluation. While leaders carry out 360 performance evaluations on employees, the same can work wonders in helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Take notes. Journaling is a loved practice among mindfulness groups, but it can also be an easy way to track your growth and increase self-awareness. The founder of WP Beginner, Balkhi, suggests using an app such as Roam Research to take notes.

5. Agility

In business, agility is incredibly beneficial because it allows organizations to adapt fast to changes in the market. For example, if a competitor introduces a new product, an agile organization will be able to quickly develop a similar product and release it to the market. 

The pandemic proved the necessity of agility as a skill. The modern business executive needs to be this sharp.

Practical Ways to Be Agile

  • Try Out Ideas. One way is to be open to change and experiment with new ideas. 
  • Be organized. Another way is to stay organized and efficient so that the leader can make changes quickly without causing disruptions. 
  • Anticipate. Lastly, be proactive and anticipate changes in the market to adjustments well before they are needed.

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6. Innovation

The need for creativity and innovation is increasing, meaning corporate leaders will have a greater responsibility in these areas. They must use their leadership skills to harness the power of innovation, or they will be left behind when other companies catch up with them.

Apple has been able to stay in business for a long time despite newer and cheaper gadget inventions because of innovation.

By making innovations to their products with users in mind, the company provides more user-friendly gadgets with functionality and security, features customers are willing to pay for despite the price. 

Practical Ways to Develop Creativity and Innovation Skills

  • Read widely. This is a no-brainer. Innovators are diligent researchers. Read leadership books to gather insights and thought processes of skilled leaders and innovators in the business world.
  • Create time to be alone with your thoughts. Innovators are also think tanks. Schedule time daily to reflect and organize your thoughts, ideas, and goals for projects.
  • Listen to your team. Creative ideas do not always come from leaders. Apart from getting feedback on your performance and improvement areas as a leader, employee feedback is a hub of innovative ideas.

Related: 7 Recommended Books on Entrepreneurship.

7. Adaptability

Adapting to new situations allows organizations to succeed in an ever-changing landscape.

Adaptability is the ability to change and adjust to new circumstances. But when it comes to leadership, it goes deeper than that. Adaptable leaders can change their behavior and approach, while inspiring and motivating others to do the same. They can see opportunities in change and are adept at driving organizational transformations.

Practical Ways to Be a Change Agent

  • Stay Up to Date With What is New. New tools and techniques are always coming out, but you cannot keep up if your skills do not evolve. Research anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsure of its impact on the company.

8. Diversity Management

The global economy is a considerable part of today’s business world, and as such, diversity management and cultural intelligence have become even more relevant to employers. 

Remote and hybrid work environments are now the norm leaders have to operate. With the constant need for collaboration with peers from all over the globe – this managerial skill will be crucial in helping business executives succeed at their job!

Practical Ways to Manage Diversity

  • Learn. Make a point to learn about other cultures represented on your team. Understand these cultures instead of making assumptions about what they are like based on your own experiences.
  • Be open-minded and respectful of different cultures. When interacting with people from other cultures, be respectful of their traditions and values, even if they differ from your own. 
  • Acknowledge personal cultural biases and assumptions.

9. Delegation

Efficient leaders know that delegation is an essential part of their job.

It does not mean offloading work so they can have less stress as a leader-it means building skills for those who might one day become future leaders in the company! It’s also assigning tasks to people who are best suited for them. That builds their skills and potential to become future leaders! 

Delegation is a core competency for leaders because it means distributing work to maximize efficiency while focusing on other pressing issues.

Practical Ways to Delegate Well

  • Ask for volunteers. From time to time, add tasks and have members pick what they want to work on- they are more likely to select according to their strengths.
  • Review. After completion, take time to review and give feedback.
  • Assign. Assign tasks based on skills and set concise instructions on requirements, KPIs, and deadlines.

10. Result-Driven

Top executive positions require leaders that can multitask and still produce results. With this in mind, the modern-day executive needs focus and prioritization to know the activities with the most impact on the organization to direct efforts on and make sure they are strategies that will lead towards success.

Practical Activities That Increase Output

  • Time management. Envision goals to prioritize the order of accomplishment.
  • Organization. Cut back on time and increase output with savvy organization skills. Use apps and software to automate most of the administrative tasks.

In Conclusion

The skills that made someone a great leader in the past may not be as relevant now.

To thrive in this new business landscape, executives need to assess their skills and adopt relevant ones to take their executive game up a notch.

Here are our favorite takeaways that you should note if you want to boost your career.

1) Continuous Learning – The modern business world is constantly changing for leaders to stay ahead of the curve by learning new things consistently. It could mean reading industry journals, taking online courses, or attending conferences.

2) Adaptability – As the saying goes, “the only constant is change.” Every business has to transform through innovative ideas. Being adaptable will be the most valuable skill to take the team and business to higher levels.

Are there any other skills or areas of leadership you find most challenging to master? Let us know in the comments below.

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My name is Tonika Bruce. I am a registered nurse, a renowned author, and a serial entrepreneur passionate about leading and inspiring people.
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