You don’t need to be a leader to have a successful career. But if you want to give yourself a shot at exponential career growth, developing your leadership skills must be at the top of your to-do list!
But becoming an effective leader can be challenging — especially since, according to a recent study, 63% of millennials feel those skills aren’t being developed at work!
So, to help you begin your path towards leadership, I’ve put together a list of the top leadership skills for every industry. I’ve also shared some tips on how you can take charge of developing those skills on your own — even if your workplace doesn’t offer leadership training.
But first, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page, by looking at…
What Are Leadership Skills?
Leadership skills are the skills you use to organize, motivate, and manage other people to complete tasks. As you can imagine, there is no singular skill that makes someone an effective leader. Instead, the best leaders — regardless of industry — work to develop simultaneously a large set of skills that give them the tools to influence and lead their colleagues.
Top Leadership Skills For Every Industry
Effective leaders need to develop a wide variety of hard and soft skills. The hard, technical skills will depend on the company and industry you’re in. But here are 7 leadership skills that are transferable and valuable to any organization.
Effective leaders are at the core of any team. They need to know how to select the right members for their team and make sure everyone is contributing in a way that’s reflective of their strengths. Within the skill of team building also lies important skills like clear communication, conflict resolution, and active listening.
With important decisions at hand, you can’t always trust your first impressions. As a leader, critical thinking skills are important because they allow you to evaluate the quality of the information presented to you, identify gaps in that information, and decide how to best move forward.
Are you able to make decisions with confidence? Even when there is uncertainty, leaders need to be able to weigh the potential pros and cons of a given situation and decide on the best course of action.
Leaders don’t just dictate orders and expect others to follow. Instead, they help the members of their team cultivate their strengths and identify ways to overcome their weaknesses. In other words, they mentor or coach their team so that everyone can perform at their best.
Leaders are trustworthy and reliable. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to be right all the time. But your team should believe you’re always striving to perform at your best. Your team should also feel that the quality of your work is consistent.
As a leader, you’ll need to have a clear idea of what goals you and your team hope to achieve. You’ll also need to develop a realistic plan to achieve those goals. Typically, that means setting goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) and then clearly communicating those goals to your team.
If you wish to influence others, you must have empathy. Without empathy, leaders often fail to connect with their team in a way that motivates them to do their best work. Without this skill, even the smartest leader will fail to adequately influence those around them.
How To Develop Leadership Skills
Here are a few ways you can begin developing the qualities of an effective leader even if you’re not in a typical leadership role at work right now.
Take more initiative at work. Leaders are self-starters. So, don’t wait for someone to ask you to lead. Take initiative by doing things like proactively finding ways to improve systems and procedures, sharing your ideas in meetings, and volunteering to help your colleagues with projects whenever you have some extra time.
Look for leadership opportunities outside of work. Leadership happens everywhere. For example, you can become a leader in your extracurricular sports teams, religious gatherings, or volunteer organizations. Will being a leader in these activities always find a place on your resume? No. But they will give you an environment to practice leadership without the added pressure of your expectations at work. Plus, leadership is one of the best transferable skills, meaning that you can apply what you learn anywhere.
Sign up for leadership courses or workshops. There is no shortage of leadership courses and workshops online and in person. The benefit of signing up for a course or workshop is that it helps to structure your learning, practice your new skills, and learn from peers with the same goals. And with an online course, you can learn about the principles of leadership whenever it is best for you!
Study books on leadership. You can learn from the best leaders in the world just by reading their books. And there are thousands of great leadership books to choose from. To make sure you’re picking the most helpful ones, take a look at Soundview’s list of the 25 best leadership books of all time. And, if you can’t find time to sit down and read, consider listening to the audiobook version while you’re doing things like driving to work or doing household chores.
Find a leadership mentor. Are there any leaders in your life that you admire? If so, they could be one of your best resources while you work to develop your leadership skills. And you don’t even need them to formally agree to be your mentor.
Do this instead: let them know about your goals related to becoming a leader, ask advice on how to achieve that goal, take action on that advice, and then repeat. It’s really that simple! But if you want more detailed advice on finding a mentor, check out my guide on how to network the right way.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Every organization values people who know how to influence and motivate those around them to perform at their best.
And to become the person those organizations need, you must prioritize developing your leadership skills! Use the tips in this article to get started and then check out 8 more of my favorite strategies to advance your career!