Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 25, 2020

Leadership skills can help you in all aspects of your career, from applying for jobs to seeking career advancement. Knowing the definitions of leadership skills and seeing relevant examples can be especially helpful when you're writing your resume or during an interview. If you're applying for jobs that require you to take initiative and be a leader—whether as a manager or among your peers—you should list leadership skills on your resume. In this article, we discuss the different types of leadership skills and outline how to improve on them.

What are leadership skills?

Leadership skills are skills you use when organizing other people to reach a shared goal. Whether you're in a management position or leading a project, these skills require you to motivate others to complete a series of tasks, often according to a schedule. Leadership skills often incorporate several different personality traits and communication abilities that are useful for anyone to learn and practice over time.

Some examples of skills that make a strong leader include:

  • Patience

  • Empathy

  • Active listening

  • Reliability

  • Dependability

  • Creativity

  • Positivity

  • Deductive reasoning

  • Communication

  • Flexibility

  • Strategic thinking

  • Ability to teach and mentor

Why are leadership skills important?

Good leaders are essential to any organization, as they help to build strong teams within a business. Effective leaders also ensure their team performs projects, initiatives or other work functions successfully. Because the skills of a leader involve multiple interpersonal and communication skills, anyone can exercise or develop their leadership abilities.

Most people have witnessed or experienced both good and bad managers. Good leaders increase employee engagement, support a positive environment and help remove obstacles for their team. Employees with an effective and good leader will often be inspired and help to foster a positive work environment.

Top 6 leadership skills

Almost any positive soft skill might be considered a leadership skill. For example, active listening skills help leaders bring projects to completion by hearing the ideas and concerns of the team. Patience, for instance, allows leaders to work with all kinds of different personalities and skill levels to help achieve a collective goal or objective.

Here is a list of must-have leadership skills that may prove valuable to anyone applying for work or looking to advance in a career:

Decisiveness

Good managers are those who can make decisions quickly with the information they have. Effective decision-making comes with time and experience. The more experience you have in a particular industry, the more comfortable you will be in making decisions. This is true even when you don't have all the necessary information. Decisiveness is seen as a valuable leadership skill because it can help move projects along faster and improve efficiency.

Integrity

To possess integrity as a skill means you have a strong set of values. In the workplace, this can also make you seem trustworthy and honest. Businesses look to hire workers who can make ethical choices that help the company maintain a positive reputation and image.

Relationship building

In any organization, the ability to build and maintain relationships is essential. A good leader can build some kind of relationship with various types of personalities, both with their own team and with others within an organization. The ability to build a relationship also calls on other important leadership skills like communication skills and conflict resolution.

Problem-solving

Problems arise in every job, no matter what level, industry or position. A good leader will be someone that can work through issues calmly and effectively. Being a good problem-solver also means coming to the table with a step-by-step solution that you can communicate with other team members. Problem-solving skills can help leaders make quick decisions, resolve obstacles with their team and external teams alike and ensure their team completes projects on time and according to the specifications.

Dependability

Team members often look for a leader that they can rely on. A dependable leader is someone that follows through on plans and keeps promises. The strong relationships built by a dependable leader create a resilient team that can work through difficulties that may arise.

Ability to teach and mentor

One of the key traits that separate leaders from team members is the ability to teach and mentor. Being able to spend extra time teaching employees how to perform a task, even if it means you delaying getting your work done, is something that businesses look for. Effectively teaching colleagues how to grow in their careers helps organizations scale.

How to improve your leadership skills

You don't need to be vying for or in a leadership role to start working on your skills. For example, finishing a project well within the given deadline or attending meetings on time shows dependability. If you see a coworker struggling to complete a project, taking time out of your busy schedule to help them is an excellent example of leadership. If it seems like a good fit for you, you might consider seeking out leadership roles to develop and practice your leadership skills.

Here are some examples of additional ways you can develop your leadership skills:

  1. Identify your leadership style

  2. Find resources about leadership

  3. Participate in leadership training courses or workshops

  4. Study leadership styles you admire

  5. Find a mentor

1. Identify your leadership style

There are several different kinds of leadership styles that you can draw inspiration from. Research the different styles and match the best one for your personality. Draw the key skills and traits from that style and work on those. You can even meet with your manager to get their opinion on what leadership style they think you would possess. Sometimes a third party opinion can help bring better clarity to something you're considering.

2. Find resources about leadership

There are all kinds of different resources available to help you develop your leadership skills, including books, podcasts, blogs and articles written on the subject.

3. Participate in leadership training courses or workshops

If you prefer to learn in a more formal structure, there are online and in-person workshops available. In-person workshops will often give you the added benefit of role-playing to help you feel more comfortable in real-life scenarios.

4. Study leadership styles you admire

When you see leaders you admire, whether they are at your job or in your community, take note of the specific qualities they have that make them a great leader. If you have a relationship with them, feel free to ask them out for lunch or a coffee to pick their brains. It might also be helpful to set specific goals toward developing one practice at a time.

5. Find a mentor

Finding someone that you admire and can rely on to help answer whatever question you might have is a great way to build and work on your leadership skills. If possible, ask a leader you respect to mentor you and set up weekly or monthly meetings with them. Use this time to ask them specific questions from real-life scenarios you've encountered. They can help you set goals toward becoming a better leader by developing skills and using them.

Ways to highlight leadership skills when applying for jobs

If being a leader is one of your career goals, you should include leadership skills on your resume. You can do this effectively by incorporating key traits you possess that may be valuable to future employers. It is best to include these skills in different areas of your resume. For example, in the section listing your past work experience, you can discuss how you helped to teach a new intern the content management system or organized a team-building activity. Your cover letter is also a good place to showcase leadership ability.

Here are ways to show leadership skills in your resume and cover letter:

Leadership skills for your resume

The two sections where you can include your leadership skills on your resume are your skills section and the achievements section. In the skills section, you can list out all of the leadership skills that you believe any of your professional references can verify on your behalf. Be sure to only list skills that you can speak to if asked about them in an interview. For example, if a hiring manager asks you to provide an example of a time that you were 'dependable,' you should be able to speak to that.

You can use the achievements section of your resume to list any awards or honours that relate back to your leadership skills.

Leadership skills for cover letters

Your cover letter provides an opportunity to help a potential employer understand you better. To share leadership skills in a cover letter, pick one or two accomplishments and do your best to describe which skill you used and what the outcome was. For example, if you were the events coordinator for a large corporate function and something went wrong, you can talk about your problem-solving skills and how that helped to get the event back on track.

Leadership skills can be the foundation of career advancement for both managers and individual contributors. Employers of any size company value people with leadership traits, meaning this is a worthwhile skill set to develop in any industry.