Career Development

7 Skills of Effective Team Leaders

June 9, 2021

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach


A strong leader possesses several skills that allow them to effectively and positively interact with their team to achieve a shared goal. In some cases, these leadership skills come naturally, while others learn through experience and formal training. Many employers are looking for these skills in candidates they hire for management positions, but leadership skills are valuable for any employee to have, no matter their role. In this article, we discuss the primary skills team leaders need and how to develop them. 

Why are leadership skills important?

Strong leadership is a fundamental element of any organization. Employees look to those in leadership roles to guide and support them, facilitate communication and motivate them to achieve their goals. This cultivates a stronger team, a more positive work environment and enhanced productivity. Some people are born with qualities that make them strong leaders, such as intelligence, initiative and an outgoing personality. However, leadership skills can also be developed. To become a strong leader, master your own natural qualities and knowledge, as well as specific skills that you must have if you want your team to be successful.

What are the top skills of a team leader?

Employees depend on a strong leader who they feel comfortable talking to and who can guide them to success. This individual is passionate about their job, confident about what they know and inspires trust and respect in their team, which can ultimately raise morale. Here are some important qualities of a good team leader: 

  1. Communication
  2. Honesty
  3. Relationship building
  4. Decisiveness
  5. Innovation
  6. Responsibility
  7. Motivation

Communication

A strong leader can clearly and concisely communicate goals, tasks and other organizational needs to their team. Leaders should be masters in written and verbal communication to ensure expectations are presented to their employees in a way they can understand. Being an effective communicator also involves listening intently, speaking clearly, understanding body language and being conscious of your tone.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Honesty

To lead effectively, a manager must be able to earn their team’s trust. Great leaders gain their employees’ respect by being forthright with them. Even if employees don’t like what a leader has to say, they’ll likely appreciate someone willing to tell them the truth.

Relationship building

Effective leaders can bring their team closer together by encouraging collaboration and facilitating healthy working relationships between employees. When team members trust each other, they work better together and are more productive. 

Decisiveness

Leaders have to make crucial decisions, sometimes with very little time. Instead of relying on guesswork, they weigh and understand their options. They have confidence in the choices they make and can communicate why they made the decision. 

Innovation

Being a leader means having to find ways to overcome many of the obstacles they inevitably face in business. A good leader takes an innovative approach to problem-solving by approaching these obstacles from new and unconventional perspectives. 

Responsibility

Employees tend to respect a leader who will take responsibility for both the success and missteps of their team. A good leader demonstrates accountability, acknowledges when mistakes have been made and then finds solutions for improvement. 

Motivation

A good leader should motivate their employees and encourage productivity and passion for the job. This includes mentoring their employees, recognizing accomplishments or providing rewarding and challenging work. 

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to improve your leadership skills

Developing your leadership skills is a great way to improve your performance, gain confidence and advance in your career. You can work on improving these skills in the following ways:

  1. Determine your leadership style.
  2. Strengthen your communication skills.
  3. Find leadership opportunities outside of work.
  4. Take leadership courses.
  5. Read books or listen to podcasts about leadership.
  6. Find a mentor.

1. Determine your leadership style

If you want to improve your leadership skills, take a moment to think of how you respond to certain situations. For instance, consider if you rely on yourself to make decisions or if you decide based on input from others. You may believe in nurturing the unique skill sets of each team member rather than forcing everyone to aim for the same goals. This can provide you with insight into how you prefer to lead. If you’re still not sure, you can take a leadership quiz to determine your preferred style and learn other ways to improve your skills.

2. Strengthen your communication skills

Effective leaders are great at communicating needs to their team clearly and promptly. Whether you’re in an entry-level position or management role, you should work on strengthening both your written and verbal communication skills and other areas that may need improvement. For instance, you could take a public speaking course to help with verbal communication. 

3. Find leadership opportunities outside of work

A great way to gain hands-on leadership experience is to find opportunities to be a leader outside of the workplace. This includes volunteering to organize activities and outings or becoming a board member of a local nonprofit organization. 

4. Take leadership courses

There are plenty of training courses and workshops available that can teach leadership skills. You can participate in these leadership courses online or attend classes at a local college that offers them.

5. Read books or listen to podcasts about leadership

There are also many books, podcasts and videos on leadership that can teach you helpful skills and provide you with ways to implement them effectively.

6. Find a mentor

Another way to learn is by studying the specific leadership qualities of someone you admire. Ask someone you respect to be your mentor and try to mirror those qualities in your work.

Demonstrating your leadership skills

You don’t have to be in a management position to showcase your leadership skills. You can establish yourself as a leader in the following ways:

Take initiative

One way to improve your leadership skills is to assume more responsibility. Wherever possible, take the initiative and do more than what’s in your job description. Speaking up and sharing your ideas, volunteering to take on challenging projects and looking for ways to improve or simplify processes are just a few examples of things you can do to get noticed as a leader.

Use your strengths

Some skills take time and effort to develop, while others may be natural abilities. Examine the strengths and talents that come naturally to you and put them to work.

Be a model of leadership

True leaders do so by example. Model the behaviors you’d like to see in your team and not only will they respect you for it, but they will be more likely to do the same. People are likely to look up to someone knowledgeable, demonstrates confidence and positivity, accept accountability and show respect for others. 

Empower your team

Being a good leader means knowing which of your team members are best suited to take on a project or task and empowering them to do so. Delegating tasks to other team members is an opportunity for them to showcase their skills while learning new ones, and makes them feel more committed to their work. 

Be positive and proactive

Sometimes, a project or task doesn’t go as planned. When this happens, good leaders don’t dwell on the challenges or find themselves discouraged. Instead, they remain positive and encouraging and focus on solutions for the next time. 

Listen and learn

Excellent communication skills are essential for any leader. Part of this communication includes listening to and observing your coworkers, peers and manager. Listening to your team and others in your organization allows you to understand different perspectives and learn from their approaches.

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