10 Key Leadership Development Areas (With Examples)

Updated February 3, 2023

Leadership development is when a professional enhances their skills and qualities in order to become a more effective leader. To do this, professionals focus on particular categories, often referred to as leadership development areas. If you would like to strengthen your leadership potential, it may be helpful to know which categories to focus on.

In this article, we discuss ten key leadership development areas and the importance of each, and we offer tips and examples to use as a guide.

Related: 15 Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader

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Why is leadership development important?

Having effective leaders within the management of a company can help achieve the company's desired goals and ensure that both employees and managers are reaching their highest potential. Knowing what areas of development each leader needs can help train better managers and can promote workplace positivity and efficiency.

Related: Q&A: Why Is Leadership Important In Organizations?

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Leadership development areas

Recognizing areas of leadership development and prioritizing your growth may help you become a stronger leader. While self-reflection and a conscious change in behavior can address these areas, there also are productive and fun leadership-building activities that also promote better leaders. These leadership-building activities target certain areas of development to improve them. Whether achieved by hands-on activities or critical thought, understanding the definition and importance of leadership development areas is key to becoming a strong and respected leader.

Here is a list of 10 leadership development areas:

1. Decision-making

One of the primary duties of a leader is to make decisions that can affect both daily operations and the future of the company.

Here's a list of tips to improve your decision-making skills:

  • Consider the consequences of your decision. Understand how your decision may affect the company both in the short- and long-term future.

  • Weigh the pros and cons of your decision. Try to imagine what benefits the decision could have for the company. Choosing the option that offers the most benefit to the company can be easier if you can weigh the benefits against possible downsides.

  • Listen to other opinions. Talking about the decision with other leaders or coworkers and asking for their input may help you reach the best solution. This exposes you to other perspectives that you may not have considered and allows you to take advantage of the diversity in thought among your team.

  • Understand that the best choice may not be the most popular choice. Leaders often make challenging decisions that may or may not please others. However, understanding what is best for the company overall can be more important than pleasing others and ultimately may yield the best result.

2. Communication

Strengthening your communication skills can allow you to improve the company's daily operations and help you share your professional needs and feelings with your coworkers.

Here's a list of tips to improve your communication skills:

  • Be articulate and assertive with your expectations. Providing others with explicit instruction can help improve workflow and minimize any confusion other employees may feel regarding their duties.

  • Listen to others. Effective leaders are often empathetic listeners and make certain that they understand the feelings and opinions of others when relevant. Listening to others can help identify and remedy conflicts.

  • Manage conflicts. If a workplace conflict arises, effective communication can resolve the situation peacefully. Solid communication skills can also ensure that conflicts do not arise from misunderstandings.

  • Help others understand the company's goals. Knowing and communicating the company's goals can increase the chance that you and your team can achieve these goals. Skilled leaders often remind other employees of these goals and check to confirm that the team understands how to reach the company's mission.

3. Culture

Workplace culture often affects how well employees perform. While the behavior and beliefs of many employees create a workplace's culture, it is a leader's responsibility to maintain a positive culture.

Here is a list of tips to help you foster a positive work environment:

  • Promote diversity. Recognizing and celebrating the different people and ideas that make up a company can help boost morale and establish a safe and welcoming work environment.

  • Encourage collaboration. Collaboration and cooperation can help improve work quality. Often, leaders who encourage collaboration discover alternative approaches that may increase the company's production.

  • Give positive reinforcement. When leaders let their employees know when they've done something well, it can help create a positive work environment and fosters respect between leaders and employees. Reinforcing outstanding work also can make it more likely that the employee will repeat their action.

  • Prioritize training. Paying special attention to new hires can help make certain that these new employees take part in improving the workplace culture. Prioritizing training can also improve production quality because it helps new hires understand the practices necessary to succeed.

4. Performance

In order for daily operations to run effectively and meet the company's goals, leaders must properly manage the performance of both themselves and their employees.

Here's a list of tips to help encourage outstanding performance:

  • Delegate tasks. Assigning the right tasks to the right person can help encourage efficient performance.

  • Be accountable for results. Sometimes leaders need to address unsatisfactory results. To find the best way to move forward, leaders may need to recognize what caused this result and how to fix it.

  • Measure performance objectively. To be a fair and respected leader, approach performance measurements in the most impartial way possible. This method holds all employees to the same standard and creates a fair environment.

  • Address performance problems quickly. Be sure to confront any issues with an employee's performance as soon as possible. This can help ensure that any employee who is struggling can receive the help they need in order to succeed.

5. Mentoring

A company is often at its strongest when it has multiple talented leaders to guide the business toward its objectives. One way to ensure that the company always has outstanding leaders is to train them well. After cultivating an effective relationship with your own mentor, try to find your own trainee to mentor. Great leaders can inspire others to improve their skills, and this can also help you spread your knowledge of the company's goals and practices.

Here's a list of tips to improve your mentoring skills:

  • Understand their personal goals. Learning about your trainee's ambitions and personality can prepare you to find the most effective way to teach them.

  • Ask open questions. Asking open-ended questions allows your trainee to answer freely and create their own problem-solving approach rather than using yours. This can also give you a better understanding of their thought process.

  • Offer advice when asked. Try to hold your opinions until directly asked for them, or ask permission to share your advice. This can help your trainee become more self-sufficient.

  • Build confidence. Letting your trainee know what they are doing well can help boost their self-esteem and transform them into a confident leader, consequently filling your workplace with more leaders.

6. Organization

Staying organized and encouraging others to do the same can help improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace. A clean and focused work environment can also help reduce work-related stress. When leaders possess strong organizational skills, employees may follow suit.

Here's a list of tips to improve your organizational skills:

  • Clean your workspace. Keeping your workspace neat can improve your productivity and allow you to find needed supplies more quickly.

  • Create a to-do list. Organizing all your tasks on one list can help you visualize and plan your day's schedule. Recording everything you need to accomplish may help you approach your tasks with more confidence.

  • Prioritize your tasks. After making a to-do list, be sure to know which of your duties is the most important to complete. Perhaps you can order your tasks by their deadline or based on their difficulty level.

  • Manage your time wisely. Time management is an important tool to help you stay organized. Consider setting specific personal goals and being conscious of your work habits.

Read more: Q&A: How Can I Stay Organized?

7. Trust

Fostering a sense of trust between yourself and your employees can help your workplace avoid conflicts and boost morale. Employees may be more likely to respect a leader who places trust in them and has gained the employees' confidence as well.

Here's a list of tips to build trust in your workplace:

  • Show support. Let your employees know you are there to help them and support them through any problems that you can.

  • Model the behavior you expect. Leaders who practice the same standards they expect of their employees may be more likely to gain the trust and respect of their employees because they are showing dependable behavior.

  • Allow employees to work independently. Remain available if your team member needs assistance to show that you trust them to complete tasks independently.

  • Balance the desire for results and other's feelings. Consider how an employee is feeling before prioritizing a goal. Sometimes, you may find that an employee is experiencing something that requires empathy and understanding that they may not be able to meet their usual standards.

8. Change

Leaders must be open and willing to accept change when necessary. This may be a change in production, goals or even a work environment. Regardless of the reason, companies can often benefit from a change.

Here are some tips on how to confront and welcome change:

  • Listen to feedback. Listening to complaints, concerns or compliments can give a leader a better idea of what needs to change.

  • Learn and educate. Make a conscious effort to learn new ideas and concepts that could improve your workplace. When you learn something useful, share it with others.

  • Plan what needs to change. After gathering feedback and gaining new knowledge, plan how the company can change its approach to incorporate this needed change.

  • Be honest. Leaders should be honest with their employees when they don't know the answer and only provide accurate information. Sharing feelings may also help others adjust to the change.

9. Creativity

Creativity in the workplace encourages innovation and critical thinking. It is an important skill to foster both in leaders and employees.

Here are some tips on how to increase creativity:

  • Create a welcoming environment. Through decor, you can design an appealing workspace. An office with colorful walls or indoor plants may be more motivating than a plain, white-walled office. Then, embody a positive and welcoming attitude to clients, coworkers and other visitors to the workplace.

  • Encourage individuality. Allow employees to develop alternative approaches and celebrate their unique personality traits and interests.

  • Brainstorm together. Allowing your employees to take part in the problem-solving process gives them a chance to express their creativity and shows that you value their input.

  • Hire diverse talents. Be sure to hire people with different backgrounds, demographics and strengths. This can naturally inspire individuality and ensure the development of new ideas.

Read more: 5 Steps for Increasing Creativity in the Workplace

10. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and recognize the feelings of others as well. A leader who has a strong sense of emotional intelligence can foster a healthier and happier workspace, which ultimately can improve employee satisfaction and productivity.

Here's a list of tips to strengthen your emotional intelligence:

  • Evaluate yourself. Know your motivations and how to identify your emotions.

  • Regulate yourself. Try to be aware of your reactions to others. Regulating your emotions can help ensure that you react appropriately when you approach an issue.

  • Take responsibility. Recognize when you are at fault or the role you may have played in another's failure. Accepting responsibility can be the first step to resolution.

  • Empathize with your employees. Listening to your employees' problems and feelings can help build trust and give you a better understanding of how your employees' challenges may affect the way they work.

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