Business Skills

A Simple Guide To Leadership Skills

Leadership skills | Leadership skills training



Who is a leader? / What is the definition of a leader?

A leader has an idea where the future lies (for the business/individuals/team/country/etc) and she/he then influences and guides everyone towards that future. A good leader is a champion at getting all to achieve the common goals.


What makes an effective leader?

An effective leader not only knows the way, but also knows how to to 'do the way'. An effective leads leads (and thus inspires and educates) by example, providing constant guidance, support and motivation to one's people. An effective leader doesn't believe in showmanship, isn't a narcissist, but a 100% guiding light only. An effective leader focuses on getting the job done, sharing the credit and not going after personal glories at cost of others.


Why do we need leaders? (Or, why is important to be a leader?)

We need leaders to show us the 'right' goals and the 'right' path. Even if we have an idea of what we have to do, a leader gets us to focus on the goals, and works alongside us to get there. We need a leader to provide material and moral support whenever we need, and motivation whenever we falter. We need our leaders to be guiding lights on the path to success.


Part 1: The theory of leadership


1. Leadership Qualities and traits


The 15 traits of a good leader

- Be honest and frank: Because deceptive behavior will not inspire trust.

- Be competent and dependable: Using skills, reasoning and moral principles (instead of childlike emotional desires or feelings), to get the job done..

- Be forward-looking: Once good leaders have a vision and set of goals, they prioritize things based on how they affect the final goal, but without compromising their values.

- Be inspiring: When you show endurance in mental, physical, and spiritual stamina, you will inspire others to reach for new heights. Take charge when necessary.

- Be enthusiastic: It rubs off on your people more than any thing else.

- Be intelligent: Read well, study everything, and seek challenging assignments.

- Be fair-minded and just: because prejudice is the enemy of justice. And empathize with the feelings, values, interests, and well-being of others.

- Be broad-minded: Promote diversity and be open-minded to other ideas.

- Be courageous: Have a strong heart and persevere till you accomplish a goal, no matter what the obstacles are. And be confident and calm even under stress.

- Be straightforward and decisive: Make sound decisions swiftly, and let people know of your intentions. Don't beat around the bush.

- Be imaginative: Be timely, adaptive and innovative with your thinking, plans, and methods. Be creative with your goals, ideas, and solutions to problems.

- Be tactful too: Some people may get turned off by your straight forward style, so sometimes, it helps to be tactful.

- Be trustworthy: No one follows a flake for long.

- Be unselfish: Share the credit. The very basic definition of leader is to work for others, not for yourself.

- Be loyal: To the vision, the goals and most importantly, to the people you have convinced to move towards the goal. Don't leave them hanging.


The leadership traits as an acronym: JJ did tie buckle

- Justice

- Judgment

- Dependability

- Initiative

- Decisiveness

- Tact

- Integrity

- Enthusiasm

- Bearing

- Unselfishness

- Courage

- Knowledge

- Loyalty

- Endurance


The top five leadership traits:

These are the results from a survey of 10,000 managers in the United States.


- Honesty: Chosen as the most important leadership characteristic.


- Competence: The second most important leadership attribute.


- Forward looking: Having a clear sense of direction and concern for the future of the company. True leaders must know where they are going. They must have the ability to look beyond the horizons and envision the future with optimism and positive outlook.


- Inspiration: The leader must communicate the vision in a way that will inspire people to enlist and work towards making the vision happen.


- Credibility: More than anything else, people want leaders who are credible. Credibility in one word stands for integrity, competence and trustworthiness.


The U.S. Army’s 23 Traits of Character:

















Sense of humor









Here are the U.S. Army's Eleven Leadership Principles, dating back to World War 1.


- Be tactically and technically proficient

- Know yourself and seek self-improvement

- Know your soldiers and look out for their welfare

- Keep your soldiers informed

- Set the example

- Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished

- Train your soldiers as a team

- Make sound and timely decisions

- Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates

- Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities

- Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions


How to be a level 5 leader

Level 5 - Executive - Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.

Level 4 - Effective Leader - Catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards.

Level 3 - Competent Manager - Organizes people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of pre-determined objectives.

Level 2 - Contributing Team Member - Contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting.

Level 1 - Highly Capable individual - Makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills, and good work habits.

(Source: 'Good to Great', Jim Collins)


2. Leadership Styles

Ideal leadership means achieving a balance between concern between people and concern for the task.


The ideal leadership style considers the context first:

- the work involved: routine or creative - strict time limit

- skill levels and experience of members of your team

- the organizational environment (conservative or adventurous, stable or radically changing)

- your own preferred or natural style


The five major leadership styles

There are many models about leadership styles in the market. But, basically, all are derived from how hard-driving and strict a leader is , or how lenient/take-it-easy a leader is.


- Authoritarian or autocratic ('My Way or the highway'): E.g. Dictators, Steve Jobs

- Procedural: Very task-orientated, bureaucratic, managerial - Get the job done in an ordered style - E.g. Most business manager fall in this category.

- Transformational: Where the leader depends on his/her charisma & energy to inspire his people - E.g. Most politicians are of this type.

- Participative/Democratic/Consulting: Involving everyone in decision making all the time. - E.g. How democracies started out, before interest groups and political parties hijacked the system, but that is another story.

- Laissez-faire/Delegative/Servant: A leader who is not formally recognized. Leads just by meeting the needs of the team. Whole team is involved in decisions. You can't do everything so you have to set priorities & delegate some tasks. May not be good in competitive situations.


Good leaders switch instinctively between styles depending on the situation.


What is a servant leadership?

The idea of a Servant leader: Servant leadership is an approach to leadership and was created by Robert Greenleaf. Servant-leadership means the leader is just a 'steward'/caretaker of the resources (human, financial and otherwise) provided by the organization. Servant leaders serve others while staying focused on achieving results, all in line with the organization's values and integrity.


Basically, a servant leader is an 'ego less' leader, focusing on 'collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power'. Very much unlike the top-down hierarchical style of traditional leaders. Servant leaders lead so that they can serve people better, not to pursue their own selfish agendas.


The ten characteristics of servant leaders: (source: Larry Spears)

Listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community.


3. Five leadership myths

- Leadership is a quality we are born with: Anecdotal evidence isn't enough to support this. In reality, leaders develop from nature (i.e., natural talents) as well as nurture (i.e., acquired skills).

- Leaders always influence people do big things: Big things sometimes (E.g. Churchill's leadership during World War 2), but decidedly awful things many time (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot...)

- All groups need a leader: Only those groups where there is a lot of infighting and destructive one-upmanship, need a leader to calm, control and guide them. Unfortunately, the world has more of these kinds of groups than others.

- Leaders are in full control of how groups work: This is a romantic idea, experts say. Even someone as powerful as the American President can't do much without bipartisan (all parties) support in the Congress and Senate, as well countless vested interest groups.

- All groups have a leader: The Occupy movement around 2010 didn't have leaders. Many women groups work well together without the dominating influence of a leader. 'Leaderless' empoweed groups avoid the stress of having a leader and everyone feels and acts responsible for the outcome.


Part 2: Leaders and their teams


The best performing teams have these qualities:


- Participative/Democratic leadership: A leadership style that involves and engages team members.

- Effective decision-making : Using a variety of decision making methods, logical or intuitive, depending on the situation.

- Open and clear communication: Everyone understands the goals and their tasks, and are in loop at all times using different communication methods and channels.

- Valued diversity: Different viewpoints help reach at better decisions (not one sided) and solutions (not half baked). Research has also found that teams with more women tend to be more intelligent.

- Mutual trust: Where team members believe they are a part of a bigger whole.

- Managing conflict openly and transparently: Never allowing grudges to build up and destroy team morale.

- Clear SMART goals: Where each goal has a meaning (the 'why') and is understood by everyone in the team.

- Defined roles and responsibilities: They know what they are supposed to do, and that they will be held accountable for their performance on that task.

- Seamless coordination: Using responsibility charts/task-update charts and real-time communication to do the task efficiently and effectively.

- Positive atmosphere: One focused on getting results and is always forward-looking, not getting bogged down in petty stuff.


Creating good teams

Things a good team leader does: Leaders who create and work with productive and effective teams always share the credit with others, do everything to make sure the team has all it needs to get the job done, proactively dealings with problems and conflicts, even helping sort out their own problems. They also make sure to know who work best in a group setting and who are best when left alone.


A good leader,


- Knows the team's overall mission statement and how the success will be evaluated

- Set out exactly what is expected from each member and how they will be evaluated

- Makes sure all tasks are done on schedule and within budget.

- Lead by example: Do their share of the work, look at how others are faring, who need help etc.

- Keep an eye on overall team operations, and work in to assist

- Closely monitor the team’s mood, participation level and general enthusiasm pools, making changes as required.

- Keep things light and active: Using humor and forbearance to keep everyone easy at the job. The best leaders are very forgiving.

- Knowing how to grease the wheels: They know who to please ('give and take'), chat up, or even convince with force, within and outside the company, to get obstacles out of way and get on with the job. These organizational savvy leaders also try to have high level support or mentors with relevant experience who will give support or throw some light on the job at hand. It helps that these leaders have something valuable to trade- namely, their own expertise at some stuff.


Note: This part is being reproduced from the guide to 'Running Business'.


How to build a reliable team


- Start with a solid core of workers you know from past jobs or who come recommended by trusted colleagues.

- Your No. 2 is your most important hire. Pick one who complements your management style, shows loyalty without being a yes-man, and has a talent for working with others.

- Hire those who share your vision. Someone who clashes with your personality or the corporate culture will hinder your work.

- Be a creative, unconventional interviewer if you seek creative, unconventional people. Go deeper than the job experience and expertise. Ask questions that reveal a candidate’s personality, values, and perspective on work and life.

- Surround yourself with cheerful, optimistic people. They will reward you with the loyalty and camaraderie vital for success.

- Applicants hungriest for the job are apt to work hardest to keep it. (This writer can attest to this reality)

- To weed out potential slackers, chose workers who show a willingness to tackle any job, and will take a turn at the unpopular tasks.

- Hire those with the talents and expertise you lack. Don’t feel threatened by them, they will help you stay on the cutting edge and bring distinction to your organization.

- Spell out clearly to new employees the exact duties and requirements for the job, and how they will be compensated, many failed work relationships start with a lack of communication.

- To help your staff do top-notch work, give them the best equipment you can afford. Working with outdated, unreliable tools creates an unnecessary burden.


What is the ideal size for a team?

Whatever number people may come up with, one thing is certain: most top notch teams are small in size. I would say most productive teams come in 2 sizes. Both have military connections.


1. The Four-man fighting modules

This is how the U.S. Navy Seal operates. In this four person fighting module, rank is forgotten. Everyone joins in.


2. The Twelve man US Army’s Special Forces teams

Do not be alarmed by these small sizes. Army experts say these teams can 'equal the fighting power of a light infantry company'. Small teams are self-contained, swift and quiet. Most importantly, these small action teams are low-maintenance, requiring less overhead and infrastructure support.


The biggest barriers to team effectiveness:

Ineffective communication - 66%

Lack of effective chartering - 56%

Lack of clarity/understanding of roles - 47%

Keeping morale/momentum high - 44%

Keeping productivity high - 42%

Lack of trust - 36%


What team members often find the most frustrating things about being part of a team:

Ineffective use of meeting time - 54%

Ineffective communication between team members - 50%

Lack of accountability - 47%

Individuals who don’t complete assignments - - 44%

Lack of preparation in meetings - 41%

Not everyone pulls their weight - 41%

Lack of process for structuring team and work - 39%

Lack of clear purpose - 3%

Uneven work distribution - 32%

Lack of trust among team members - 29%

Time spent away from 'real' job

Length of time it takes to get the team up and running


(Source: Research Survey by The Ken Blanchard Companies)


Coaching team members: The GROW Model

- Goal (Where they are going)

- Current Reality (Who, what, when, where...)

- Options (The various ways - e.g. What else could you do?)

- Will (Commitment - being preparing for all the obstacles on the way)


Mentoring team members

Sharing your knowledge and experience with others - enjoying encouraging and motivating others


Motivating your team

- Providing productive and challenging work: Interesting work - giving meaningful work assignments

- Setting effective goals: SMART goals - Managing by objectives (aligning personal goals with those of the org.) - setting KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and performance agreements

- Understanding individual differences in motivation: Using Marlow’s hierarchy - Theory X and Y - Hertzberg’s motivators and hygienic factors - people seek challenging work, control, growth opportunities, and recognition for a job well done.

- Providing rewards and recognition: Be part of the team - recognize and reward/praise good work right on the spot - Management by walking around -


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