Business Leadership Today

14 Leadership Skills Examples


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Leadership is an essential component for the success of any organization.

As Business Leadership Today contributors Mark S. Babbitt and S. Chris Edmonds point out, “Leadership has a powerful impact on employee engagement because everything a leader does affects—helps, hurts, or hinders—company culture.” 

Since company culture influences the employee experience, shaping an employee’s perception of their job over the course of their time there, strong leadership determines how well organizations are able to engage and retain talented workers.

There are many skills that go into making a good leader who can positively shape organizational culture and positively impact the lives of employees. 

Leadership skills examples include the ability to be flexible, build trust, empathize, communicate, give and receive feedback, actively listen, be patient, solve problems, delegate, resolve conflict tactfully, manage time wisely, maintain consistency, adapt, and motivate employees to do their best. 

In this article, we will explain how these 14 skills can help you be a better leader and better serve your employees. 

1. Flexibility

Flexibility has become increasingly important over the course of the pandemic and was one of the drivers of The Great Resignation. 

Flexibility is an essential leadership skill, now more than ever. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the flexibility to work autonomously is a must-have for job seekers. 

Leaders who know how to be flexible with their employees and offer them flexibility to improve their employee experience will have a considerable advantage over leaders who don’t. 

As commutes have grown longer and remote and hybrid work options have become not only more popular but more doable, offering your employees more flexibility in their work schedules, like providing a remote option, and giving your employees the tools to work with more autonomy are great ways to help employees meet their needs and improve their well-being. 

This can work out well for both employers and employees. By giving workers the autonomy they crave, you are forging strong, trust-based relationships with your employees and, at the same time, encouraging employees to be accountable and take ownership of their roles. 

2. Trust Building

Trust is vital for any team. It helps leaders establish rapport with their employees and helps employees build strong relationships with their co-workers. 

A high level of trust can facilitate good communication, collaboration, and a sense of camaraderie amongst employees. It also helps employees engage more with their work and perform better.

The level of trust an employee has in their leader affects how well employees perform, how productive they are, and how profitable the organization is. When there is a lack of trust, it can lead to toxic work environments, which will cause employees to leave. 

In toxic work environments where trust is low, you will also see negative effects on employee engagement. 

3. Empathy

The pandemic showed those of us who didn’t already know the importance of empathy in leading workers and making decisions. 

According to Charlene Walters, author and consultant, the stress many workers have endured over the last few years has made empathy a must-have leadership skill. 

Walters says, “We’ve experienced the pandemic, the great resignation, staffing and supply chain issues, and have been forced to do more with less, time and time again. It takes a strong leader to keep an organization moving forward despite the many disruptive events occurring in our society and business environment.”

It takes good leaders who are capable of empathy to keep organizations afloat in turbulent times.

Good leaders are authentic and care about their employees. They don’t just focus on profits and statistics; they consider the employees who are working diligently to help the organization achieve its vision, and they are aware of how decisions can impact them. 

4. Communication

Leaders set the tone for strong communication by being approachable and open to suggestions. Clearly communicating goals, objectives, and expectations provides the clarity all employees need to do their jobs well and with self-confidence.

Keep in mind, for communication to be most effective it should be honest and respectful. It should also be a two-way street. 

Leaders should be skilled at receiving communications from employees and responding to them in a timely manner, and in a way that makes them feel truly heard. 

Part of a leader’s job is to communicate information about the company’s culture, clearly articulating and modeling the organization’s core values, mission, and vision. Communicative leaders build consensus around a shared vision and inspire their teams to work according to this shared vision. 

Feedback and recognition are forms of communication that can do wonders for engagement and retention.

5. Feedback

Feedback is a central component of effective communication. 

Good feedback is feedback that is constructive, compassionate, specific, focused, timely, and presented in a positive tone. When done well, good feedback provides an actionable and solutions-oriented framework that guides employees toward desired behaviors.

For feedback to be effective, whether it’s a critique or praise for an employee’s contribution, it should specifically tie into a larger overall goal, rather than being generic, and should outline a course of action.

Employees can benefit greatly from frequent feedback from their leaders. They can also provide useful feedback to leadership. Establishing a culture of feedback in your organization can lead to greater employee satisfaction, an improvement mindset, and better productivity.

6. Listening

You can schedule regular meetings, coaching sessions, and one-to-one meetings every day, but, if you aren’t actively listening to your employees, these tools will not help them connect to their work. 

It’s easy to fall into asking the same questions or giving the same advice each time you exchange feedback with an employee. It’s best to avoid this. 

To build trust and establish a good system of feedback, leaders need to really listen to their employees and respond to what they are saying in the moment to get the most out of these meetings. 

Listening is a central component of empathetic leadership. 

These leaders engage with their teams with compassion and build trust and camaraderie to create a more pleasant experience. They demonstrate care toward their employees by listening to them.

7. Patience

As with empathy, the pandemic showed us the need for patience in the workplace. 

Workers can come up against the impatience of others many times during the work day. While it isn’t feasible to expect customers to always be patient, leaders can always show their teams patience. 

You never know what some of your employees are going through. Being patient with them when they struggle, especially in difficult situations or times of uncertainty, can build trust. 

You can demonstrate patience through coaching and mentoring employees through 1 to 1 meetings.

8. Problem Solving

Leaders need strong analytical and critical thinking skills to solve problems effectively and the ability to remain calm under pressure when problems arise so that they can better solve them. 

They also need to be able to identify creative solutions in a timely manner that make the best use of available resources. 

The ability to address the problems that will inevitably arise (no matter how much we plan, things can go sideways) while remaining positive and mission-focused, is not only a necessary leadership skill, it can serve as a great example for employees.

Additionally, being the kind of leader who can recognize problem-solving skills in their employees is a great leadership skill. Employees can approach problems from a variety of perspectives and offer options for leaders when it comes to identifying creative solutions.

Doing this has the added benefit of making employees feel heard, valued, and essential to the organization’s success.

9. Delegation

Good leaders delegate. They think strategically to identify the best path forward, and they give their employees the right amount of guidance and autonomy to do their work well. 

The ability to delegate work to the right people with realistic expectations is a leadership skill that will always come in handy, no matter what field you are in. Delegating effectively requires attention to detail, trust, and thorough knowledge of your team members’ strengths and weaknesses. 

Guiding the work of employees so that it flows smoothly and ensuring they are equipped to do the work provides the foundation employees need to do their best work. 

10. Conflict Resolution

Being able to solve conflicts with tact and diplomacy can make the difference between a toxic work environment and a work environment where employees get along and work together harmoniously toward a common goal.

Other leadership skills we have covered—listening, empathy, problem solving, and patience—help leaders to resolve conflict with tact and diplomacy. To address conflicts effectively, the employees involved should feel heard and respected. 

When conflicts are not resolved, it can hurt employee morale and hinder productivity, so they should be addressed as soon as possible and with a high level of emotional intelligence.

11. Time Management

Time management is critical for a team’s success. Having a leader that can manage time wisely helps employees manage their time wisely.

Leaders often have to manage many tasks, responsibilities, and projects simultaneously. They also have to prioritize deadlines, track progress, and assess the completed project, while they also monitor the performance of others.

Because of this, time management is a skill that’s best honed before one moves into a management role. It will be difficult to help employees manage their time if you, as a leader, aren’t able to deliver on time.

12. Consistency

Consistency is always important for employees, but it becomes especially important in times of uncertainty. Inconsistencies in times of uncertainty can be disastrous for morale in the workplace, and employees could defect to other jobs if they feel their work environment is inconsistent. 

This is another skill that incorporates the other skills we’ve listed here. For leaders to maintain consistency, they should be good at time management, delegating, listening, communicating, building trust, and adapting. 

They should also exhibit a strong bias toward follow-through and exhibit reliability and dependability consistently to ensure projects and processes are as seamless as possible to keep employees on track and motivated.

13. Adaptability

Change is inevitable, and leaders need to be able to adapt if they expect their employees to adapt. Adaptable leaders really shine in times of uncertainty.

Adaptable leaders are flexible, creative, and adept at problem-solving. As situations change, they roll with the punches and help their employees adapt and maintain high performance, even in environments where change is constant.

Adaptable leaders are able to learn from mistakes and have an improvement mindset that facilitates innovation. 

They are able to maintain a consistent work environment to make employees feel psychologically safe, and they can guide employees as they adapt, making them less fearful of the future and more positive about facing challenges. 

14. Motivational Ability

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. A certain amount of both is essential for employee retention. 

Extrinsic motivation is motivation to participate in an activity based on meeting an external goal, earning praise or approval, winning a contest or competition, or receiving an award or payment.

Intrinsic motivation is defined as doing an activity for its inherent rewards rather than for a separable consequence. 

One of the most challenging aspects of retaining engaged employees who perform well is keeping employees motivated. A leader’s ability to motivate employees will determine how well they engage and retain employees. 

Leaders need to understand what really motivates their employees to best meet their needs and engage them with their work. Motivation drives an employee’s success and plays a vital role in employee satisfaction. 

Good leaders use strategies that boost intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, resulting in employees that are more invested in their jobs and more loyal to their organizations. 

Leading With Skill

Ultimately, good leadership comes down to a good combination of hard and soft skills, with emotional intelligence being one of the most important assets any leader can have.

Emotional intelligence is important in leadership because it improves self-awareness, increases accountability, fosters communication, and builds trusting relationships by helping leaders process their emotions in a more positive way that allows them to address challenges more effectively.

Emotional intelligence can help leaders be more flexible, build trust, empathize, communicate, give and receive feedback, actively listen, be patient, solve problems, delegate, resolve conflict tactfully, manage time wisely, maintain consistency, adapt, and motivate employees to do their best.

Emotionally intelligent leaders who can master these skills are more effective leaders who can help their employees cultivate their own emotional intelligence.

As Business Leadership Today contributor Laurie Sudbrink explains, emotional intelligence can have a ripple effect on your entire organization. 

“A leader who not only knows themselves really well, but is also able to sense the emotional needs of others and act on that knowledge with tact, diplomacy, and poise is going to have a highly engaged team of employees who take pride in their work.”

Developing your emotional intelligence can help you hone these 14 skills and lead authentically. 

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

Others Recent Articles and Podcast Episodes

Would you like to dramatically improve employee engagement?

Get a free training video that will show you how to double the number of engaged, motivated employees in just a few months.