What does it actually take to successfully lead a team? The right skills, of course. But what are they? We show you what skills are important and how you can develop leadership competencies. You'll also get tips on how to improve your own leadership skills and how L&D managers can promote leaders within the company.
Definition: What are Leadership Skills?
What Do Leadership Skills Look Like?
Leadership skills are diverse and can be categorized into four areas of competences:
- Social Competencies
- Professional Competencies
- Methodological Competencies.
Here are a few examples of leadership skills in all four categories:
Looking at this wide range of potentially important leadership skills, a crucial question obviously arises: Do good leaders have to be able to do all of this?
The answer: No, good team leadership also works with a combination of some of these skills. The main point is to focus on the right ones.
7+1 Leadership Skills: Which management skills are most important?
To guide a team or even an entire company safely through the various challenges of the working world, it is not enough to have just a handful of skills. But that also doesn’t necessarily mean that you as a single manager or even a group of managers in your company have to be all-round leadership experts.
Developing the right skills is the key to successful leadership!
According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute, hard skills, i.e. professional and technical knowledge, are much less important than soft skills when it comes to making a good leader. In a comparison of 12 leadership competencies, specialist knowledge comes in last place; in contrast to trust and communication skills coming at the top of the list.
A Microsoft study concludes that empathy in particular is an important component of good leadership: 65% of the surveyed employees with an empathetic manager say they are satisfied with their job, and 83% feel seen and valued.
In total, 7 skills can be derived as necessary for fulfilling a team-lead position – plus one additional skill without which all others are of little value:
<span style="color: #fc6676;">1.</span> Empathic Behavior
An empathetic leader takes time for each team member and wants to get to know and understand them. Good leaders stand out by letting others speak, listening, and knowing how to approach employees in different situations.
For example, checking in with team members in regular 1-on-1 meetings to see if they're happy and asking if they need support builds trust – and that in turn creates a more productive work atmosphere. But watch out: Being empathetic doesn't mean being overprotective of employees!
<span style="color: #fc6676;">2.</span> Entrepreneurial Mindset
Managers never lose sight of the big picture. They translate the organization's vision and strategy into effective actions for their team and ensure that every team member within their area of responsibility contributes their share to the company's success.
In order for teams to be able to deliver positive results, the team leads within your organization are responsible for developing a clear picture of the company's vision, sharing it with employees and providing them with regular updates. Ideally, you do this in a way that motivates everyone to contribute their best.
<span style="color: #fc6676;">3.</span> Motivational Empowerment
Good managers support their employees by motivating and encouraging them to find new solutions and not to be afraid of making mistakes. They create a safe working environment in which all team members feel empowered to develop measures and make decisions independently.
To achieve this, team leads do not micromanage, but rather distribute responsibility. They provide advice and tips on how to achieve goals. To keep motivation and commitment high, managers repeatedly contribute creative ideas and provide new inspiration. This makes employees feel valued and enables them to deliver their best performance.
<span style="color: #fc6676;">4.</span> Result-Oriented Action
Successful operation only works if expectations are clearly communicated and goals are defined in advance. This requires explicit and documented success criteria and deadlines. Effective team leads always ensure that performance standards are met and are in regular communication with all team members.
A result-oriented leader is also growth-oriented and able to prioritize and delegate tasks. Confident decision-making and assertiveness (especially in discussions between different departments) are competencies that play a crucial role.
"Good leaders are not just numbers-driven. They combine the company's vision in a goal-oriented way with a motivating work environment where every team member feels valued and is willing to give their best.
At Masterplan, we build on the 7+1 leadership competencies, encourage our managers to lead by example, and promote leadership skill development among all employees."
Iva Agova, Head of People at Masterplan.com
<span style="color: #fc6676;">5.</span> Integrative Team Building
Fairness and communication are essential to building a successful, homogeneous team. Good team leaders treat all employees equally and assign tasks fairly. They encourage exchange with creative thinking and facilitate various forms of teamwork.
When recruiting new employees, team leaders place great emphasis on ensuring that they bring valuable skills, fit into the company culture and enrich the team with new perspectives. By integrating all employees, a working environment is created in which everyone feels comfortable and can work efficiently.
<span style="color: #fc6676;">6.</span> Nurturing Personal Growth
Good managers have a genuine interest in the development of each talent and work proactively on individual training. Giving employees helpful input instead of ready-made solutions and encouraging them to leave their comfort zone are important components of individual progress.
All stages of development are regularly reviewed together, and it's not just the work results that count. Good team leads also recognize improvements and use them to elaborate upskilling measures that help employees achieve their personal (short- and long-term) career goals.
<span style="color: #fc6676;">7.</span> Safe Navigation
Change is essential for any organization to stay competitive and respond to internal and external dynamics. In order to keep up with industry trends and changes in the market, leadership positions require flexibility and adaptability.
Particularly in difficult phases when, for example, fundamental processes are being adapted or corporate structures are being changed, team leads must provide employees with orientation, navigate them and lead them with the right measures – even more so than they already do.
<span style="color: #fc6676;">+1.</span> Act as a Role-Model
The reliability, integrity and professionalism that a leader expects from the team must be exemplified by him- or herself. This begins with structuring one's own tasks and extends to taking the initiative in personal development. After all, this is the key to earning the trust of employees.
Those who fulfill a leadership role actively work to improve their leadership style and subsequently, serve as a good role model for their employees, signal a clear set of expectations, and motivate the team to act according to their own example.
3 Tips for (Aspiring) Leaders: How to Develop Leadership Skills?
Whether you're already in charge of a team or are just starting to aspire to a leadership position, these three tips will help you improve your leadership skills:
<span style="color: #fc6676;">1.</span> Reflect and Analyze (Yourself) Regularly
Even when it comes to leading employees, always start with leading yourself first. Self-reflection is one of the most important steps on the way to becoming a good leader. Question processes, be self-critical and try to continuously improve yourself, while also keeping your motivation high.
Truly great leaders also always dare to try new things – and often fail. But that’s not a bad thing at all. Look, for example, at how Oliver Kahn learned from his mistakes and grew both personally and professionally through them. It’s good to be assertive, think outside the box, andtry new techniques!
<span style="color: #fc6676;">2.</span> Go Ahead and Take Responsibility
Closely linked with the courage to fail is taking responsibility. If you are already in a management position, you know what it means to stand behind a decision. But are there tasks or areas at another management level that you can get involved in? If so, offer your support!
Even without a leadership role, you can take on responsibility in projects, discussions and conflicts. Get involved and try to work proactively on solutions. Don't be afraid to contribute new ideas. Instead, share your thoughts and drive change within the team.
<span style="color: #fc6676;">3.</span> Give and Ask for Feedback
Communication is one of the most important skills you should master at all levels if you want to succeed in a team lead role. So practice your communication skills where you can. The best way to do this is through feedback, both for you and coming from you.
Give feedback to colleagues voluntarily, address what they are doing well, and learn to express negative points in the right way. Likewise, you should ask for feedback on your work. This helps to improve the way you deal with criticism and to learn how others evaluate your performance.
Excursus: "Successful Leadership with Evolutionary Leadership".
How innovative leadership concepts work in a digitalized-globalized working world.
Practical Tip for L&D: How Do You Design Leadership Training in Your Company?
Particularly for L&D and HR managers, the (further) development of leaders within the organization is a challenge.
Existing team leads are at different levels of competence and have responsibility for different areas and team sizes. The situation is similar for candidates of leadership roles. On top of that, their leadership potential has to be identified first.
In short: For effective leadership training, needs and requirements must be met individually.
Designing a custom training program for each (aspiring) leader is an option, but not necessarily an efficient one. For the development of leadership competencies, it is more effective to enable self-directed learning, to motivate independent further development and to complement the continuing education offering with leadership training.
A learning engagement platform such as Masterplan provides you with a large content library of relevant and effective courses. As an HR manager, you have every opportunity to configure individual learning paths for managers, design leadership training courses, and promote the leadership qualities of all employees.
Conclusion: Developing Leadership Skills with Continuous Learning
Becoming a leader or (further) developing leadership skills only works in a continuous learning process. All employees should be given the opportunity to develop leadership competencies and to improve them individually.
Whether for yourself or as the person responsible for L&D for employees - in order to successfully fill a leadership role, you should:
- focus on the right skills for good leadership,
- have the courage or encourage others to try out new solutions, and
- create a motivating environment for self-directed learning.