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Mastering Leadership Competencies: 10 Vital Skills to Learn(+Tips)

Andrew Langat
October 4, 2023
professionals discussing about leadership skills
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"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails."
                                                                 — John C. Maxwell.

In today's business environment, mastering leadership competencies is essential for success. This is because a well-rounded leader has a set of vital skills essential to navigating the complexities of leadership. 

Unfortunately, there is a leadership gap in many companies; in fact, according to one study, 77% of companies have a leadership gap. This reveals the serious absence of leadership competencies that impact, among other issues, the chances of organizational success.

How can organizations, and also individuals, improve leadership competencies?

This is the subject of this article.

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What Are Leadership Competencies?

Leadership competencies are skills, essential competencies, knowledge, and attributes that make someone an effective leader. These can be classified as individual competencies, group competencies, & organizational competencies.

Leadership competencies can be learned and perfected over time. When leadership competencies align with the organization's vision, it creates a competitive advantage. 

Leadership competencies vary with different roles. These essential leadership competencies can act as a guide on how you lead yourself, others, and the organization as a whole.

Professionals engaged in a discussion on leadership competencies, showcasing expertise and collaboration

Individual Competencies (Leading Self)

The ability to lead others starts from within. Leading yourself is the ability to motivate yourself to achieve all the objectives set. This is important because in order for you to influence others, you must lead by example.

Here are some leadership competencies and business skills you can take up to improve yourself:

1. Bravery.

To be a successful leader you need to have some courage when making tough decisions. Bravery in your business leadership and brand means standing firm to your values for your team members. This is important because as a leader, you will always make decisions, some of which will require bravery.

This may include being assertive, asking or answering difficult questions, asking for help from your juniors, and offering feedback.

Tips for improving the bravery competency:

  • Identify your strengths and weakness, and then work at maximizing your strengths and improving your weakness through initiatives such as executive coaching for leadership development.
  • Understand that your team will look for direction during difficult moments and therefore you need to know how to approach different scenarios.
  • Learn leadership accountability, practice it, and set standards for the team.

2. Agility.

The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on businesses, and it shed light on the importance of dynamism in a workplace setting. Agile leaders were able to find ways of tackling the situation while achieving their organizational and business objectives and success.

A good leader needs to be agile; rather than being afraid of change, they need to embrace it.

Tips for improving the agility competency:

3. Self-Awareness.

Self-awareness is the first step towards being a competent leader. Managing yourself includes workload, emotions, schedule, and more. Once you can manage yourself effectively, you'll have more success leading others. You'll be able to hold them accountable in the ways you hold yourself accountable.

Identify your strengths and weakness, and work on your weaknesses. Be well-organized, plan, and understand and prioritize implementing key global leadership competencies to become a more competent leader.

Tips for improving self-awareness:

  • Start journaling; it will assist you in mapping your leadership competencies & weaknesses.
  • Ask for honest feedback from your team members to identify your blind spots.
  • Work with a leadership coach to become more self-aware.
  • Practice compassion and empathy.

Group Competencies (Leading Others)

This ability to lead others is one of the most important leadership competencies. Leading others requires competence in various areas. Building upon the competencies below is an important way to improve your overall leadership competencies, including leading others. These include:

4. Emotional Intelligence.

Leaders who have developed emotional intelligence possess the skills necessary to effectively manage conflicts, establish trust, and inspire and motivate their teams.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence empathize with others and are good at conflict resolution, all of which can create a positive work environment.

When building leadership competencies, work on your emotional intelligence. Having high emotional intelligence will help you connect better with your team members.

Tips for improving emotional intelligence:

5. Coaching Skills.

The success and failure of a company can be traced back to how a leader interacts with their team. Leaders nowadays double down as coaches and adopting a coaching leadership style is a way of enhancing professional development within their teams.

Coaching is part of the leadership competency model, and one of the key leadership competencies is the ability to effectively coach. Coaching allows people to develop in a meaningful way, builds trust, and helps individuals activate their strengths to get things done.

Tips for improving coaching:

  • Learn about coaching leadership style and implement it.
  • Develop a high sense of self-awareness.
  • Build strong interpersonal skills to enhance your relationship with your team.
  • Understand team members' strengths and weaknesses.

6. Inclusivity.

Great leaders prioritize inclusivity by committing to diversity, challenging norms, and holding themselves and others accountable. They demonstrate humility and recognize blind spots in the system to ensure a merit-based approach.

Effective leadership and collaboration involve empowering others, paying attention to diverse thinking and psychological safety, and focusing on team cohesion. Additionally, leaders need to exhibit curiosity, be attentive to others' cultures, and adapt as necessary.

Tips for improving inclusivity:

  • Practice psychological safety in the workplace.
  • Invest in leader development initiatives for all employees.
  • As part of human resource management, hire diverse talent.
  • Be willing to self-introspect, for example, identifying your cultural biases.

Organizational Competencies (Leading the Organization)

Leading an organization can be challenging as it requires coordinating and directing individuals to achieve organizational goals. Therefore, an organizational leader has to possess important leadership attributes and competencies. Here are some:

7. Conflict Management.

Conflict is bound to arise in any organization as people with different personalities, beliefs, cultures, and moods come together. However, effective leaders are capable of minimizing and handling such conflicts, resulting in stronger teams and improved performance.

The key is to find a way to reconcile opposing viewpoints, rather than forcing individuals to choose or compromise. This is an example of a leadership skill that falls under both leading the organization and leading others.

Tips for improving conflict management:

  • Emphasize work-life balance.
  • Be mindful of unconscious and implicit bias.
  • Practice psychological safety in the workplace.
  • Define and maintain workplace boundaries.

8. Problem-Solving Skills.

Competent leaders need to utilize their knowledge and experience to identify and analyze problems. They should test multiple potential solutions to determine their viability before presenting them. Once they are confident in the outcome, they can then present their solution.

Tips for improving problem-solving skills:

  • Clearly identify and understand the problem, for example, who is involved? What are the circumstances? Is there a precedent? Is this problem affecting workplace harmony?
  • Exercise empathy and create a psychologically safe environment.
  • To ensure leadership success in conflict resolution, handle one problem at a time.
  • Practice effective communication.

9. Communication and Decision-Making.

Being able to make decisions is a crucial skill for leaders as it is at the heart of their responsibilities. Effective leaders understand when it is appropriate to independently make a decision and when they should seek input from colleagues or team members. Most importantly, they also understand when to step back and let others take charge.

Communication skills are an essential leadership attribute. Leaders need to communicate their vision to their teams while also ensuring that there is an open feedback channel to allow the exchange of ideas. This will improve the organizational culture as employees will feel appreciated.

Tips for improving communication and decision-making skills:

  • Master the skill of strategic thinking.
  • Work with a leadership coach.
  • Learn how to give and take feedback.
  • Learn how to interpret body language.

10. Being Tech Savvy.

In every industry, the top performers are those who are innovative and creative. They constantly strive to improve their products and services, making them more valuable to customers and enhancing their overall experience.

Tips on how to be Tech Savvy:

  • Understand Digital employee experience (DEX) and implement it in your situation.
  • Incorporate tech-based solutions in your process.
  • Embrace artificial learning and machine learning in your decision-making processes.
  • Take advantage of online courses and free learning platforms such as Youtube.

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What Is the Importance of Leadership Competencies?

Leadership competencies create the following benefits for leaders and organizations:

1. Building Strong Relationships.

Competent business leaders who possess leadership competencies not only build strong ties with their employees but also with shareholders and customers. Professional relationships play a key role in success.

2. Quick Adaptation to Change.

Adapting to change can be tricky and many leaders may stick to their ways because of past successes. However, in some situations, such rigidity may be their downfall.

Agile leaders know when change is necessary and this can help them navigate turbulent periods. For instance, leaders who are making changes during the Covid-19 pandemic continue to propel their companies to success.

Companies need leaders who can identify future business trends and needs for change, execute change management processes, manage periods of uncertainty and disruption, and maintain organizational stability and continuity.

3. Better Decision-Making.

Decision-making is one of the most critical leadership competencies a leader can have. Good leaders know how to balance emotions and reason and they make decisions that impact the organization, employees, and other stakeholders positively.

Developing decision-making skills helps leaders identify problems, analyze them, take calculated risks, and make informed decisions on how to tackle issues while propelling the company forward.

Competent leaders have good communication and strategic skills which they can use to communicate their decision to the collective.

4. Motivation and Inspiration.

Inspiration and motivation is one of the critical leadership competencies and leadership skills needed for a company's success. A great leader motivates and inspires others to develop a passion for work ethic while helping them accomplish their goals.

The most successful leaders have a way of getting the best out of their teams. Such leaders can identify leadership potential and help mentor future leaders in leadership skill requirements and development, industry knowledge, business strategy, entrepreneurial mindset, and how to improve leadership competencies.

For more tip, check out Inspirational Leadership; Importance and Characteristics.

5. Propelling Success.

A good individual occupying a leadership position can be a detriment to organizational success. A competent leader has great interpersonal relationships and leadership skills and knows how to keep employees motivated and hungry to continue achieving goals, learning, and maximizing their impact.

Motivated employees create a positive work environment that everyone benefits from, and, in turn, leads to better performance. Therefore, it’s vital to identify the employees who possess the natural potential to lead and nurture this. Done effectively, leadership development will lead to sustainable success for the organization. 

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How Do You Develop Leadership Competencies?

To develop leadership skills and competencies, focus on cultivating them in yourself and your team. It's can be a challenging process, but there are steps you can take to make move forward.

Here are a few things you can do:

A. Conduct a leadership development assessment.

Leadership competencies can be learned over time and you can assess such competencies by identifying strengths and weaknesses for employee's development. Develop and implement a competency model and involve stakeholders to link competencies with company values and culture.

To influence positive progress, demonstrate competencies that align with the company's strategic goals and can lead to growth and success. Consistent communication with employees and customers can foster a thriving organization.

B. Identify suitable methods of leadership competency development.

1. Coaching and Mentoring.

Pairing aspiring leaders with experienced ones is a great way to improve leadership skills. Learning from those who have spent considerable time with a company provides insights into the business, products, and customers. Peer mentoring can also enhance leadership development.

Coaching is effective for non-verbal communication, active listening, and constructive feedback. With AI-based coaching, HR can design programs for employees.

2. Formal Training.

Many people opt for formal leadership training, which can consist of practical guides and seminars. It is a popular choice, with the corporate leadership training market expected to grow by $26.7 billion by 2024. Some leadership competencies, such as people management, conflict management, and change management, are better delivered through formal training.

3. Workshops.

Group workshops and focus groups are great for improving leadership and interpersonal skills.

In a group setting, individuals can gain practical experience and learn new techniques.

4. Self-Directed Learning.

Employees can improve their leadership skills on their own time if given sufficient resources, as some may have prior commitments that prevent them from attending workshops or working with a coach outside of work hours.

5. Accreditation and Certifications.

There are various online and in-person certifications and accreditations that can help people develop their leadership competencies. Online offerings tend to allow students to learn at their own pace, which allows them to fit it around their existing responsibilities. 

Promoting leadership culture and empowering employees to take ownership and accountability is crucial. Supporting leaders to enhance emotional intelligence and communication skills is also essential.

6. Shadowing a Job.

Job shadowing lets inexperienced employees learn from experienced — and often successful —employees by working alongside them. This way, they get to get first-hand experience that prepares them for future roles and helps them gain insight into daily responsibilities.

C. Develop leadership development plans.

Organizations should create personalized leadership development plans for employees, with clear objectives and activities to help them reach their goals. 

It is possible to design HR leadership development programs that are tailored to specific needs. These programs aim to enhance the skills and expertise of HR professionals to become competent leaders who can navigate the uncertain future of work. The program should focus on improving core HR competencies and leadership skills through various training sessions and assessments.

Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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Struggling With Mastering a Leadership Skill? Let Highrise Help.

No leader has it all. You might be great at communication but struggle with building meaningful relationships. There are always areas of improvement that a great coach can assist in smoothing out the rough edges.

At Highrise, we understand what makes a great leader. We coach strategic skills so that you can better negotiate, communicate, give & receive feedback, balance work & life, and more.

Reach out today and learn how you can future improve your leadership brand.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.