Resumes & Cover Letters

Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

July 26, 2021

Leadership skills can help you in all aspects of your career, from applying for jobs to seeking career advancement. One of the many soft skills that employers value, leadership often incorporates several different personality traits and communication abilities that are useful for anyone to learn and practice over time.

Knowing the definitions of leadership skills and seeing relevant examples can be especially helpful when you’re writing your resume. 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.s

If you aren't sure how to show your leadership skills on your resume, you can get professional, customized help with our resume feedback questionnaire.

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, leadership skills require you to motivate others to complete a series of tasks, often according to a schedule. Leadership is not just one skill but rather a combination of several different skills working together.

Some examples of skills that make a strong leader include:

  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Active listening
  • Reliability
  • Dependability
  • Creativity
  • Positivity
  • Effective feedback
  • Timely communication
  • Team building
  • Flexibility
  • Risk-taking
  • Ability to teach and mentor

What makes a good leader?

Effective leaders are essential to any organization. They can help build strong teams within a business and ensure projects, initiatives or other work functions are performed successfully. Good leaders have strong interpersonal and communication skills, and anyone can become one by learning how to exercise and hone leadership abilities.

Most people have seen the results of both effective and ineffective leaders on the job. Good leaders increase employee engagement, support a positive environment and help remove obstacles for their team. Good leadership is also contagious, inspiring colleagues to apply positive leadership traits in their own work.

Read more: 15 Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader

Top 6 leadership skills

Almost any positive soft skill might be considered a leadership skill. For example, active listening helps leaders bring projects to completion by hearing the ideas and concerns of the team. Empathy, for example, helps leaders understand how their team feels about their workload, environment and workplace relationships.

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:

1. Decisiveness

Effective leaders are those who can make decisions quickly with the information they have. Effective decision-making comes with time and experience. As you become more familiar with your specific industry, you’ll be able to make decisions faster, even when you don’t have all of the necessary information. Decisiveness is seen as a valuable leadership skill because it can help move projects along faster and improve efficiency.

Effective decisiveness requires research, evaluation, problem-solving and goal-setting, often with a quick turnaround. Decision-makers should be able to pull from their own experience with similar tasks, evaluate what might work best, make the decision and be confident in taking the responsibility for the result. Key skills related to being a strong leader through decisiveness include:

Read more: Decision-Making Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Integrity

Integrity is often seen as just truthfulness or honesty but in many cases, it also means having and standing by a set of strong values. Integrity in the workplace often means being able to make ethical choices and helping the company maintain a positive image. All businesses seek to hire workers who have a strong sense of integrity.

Having integrity as a leader, not only encourages the most truthful and fair practice and outcome, but also, sends a strong and positive example to your team. A leader with integrity also shows the following skills:

Read more: Integrity: Definition and Examples

3. Relationship building (or team building)

Leadership requires the ability to build and maintain a strong and collaborative team of individuals working toward the same goal. Team building requires other leadership strengths, like effective communication skills and conflict resolution. Relationship building is potentially one of the most important skills to a leadership role as it makes communication of tasks, responsibilities and goals more effective. Once you understand each other, you will benefit by being able to assess strengths, delegate tasks and complete your goals more seamlessly. A successful leader who is adept at relationship building will also have the following skills:

Read more: Relationship Building Skills: Definitions and Examples

4. Problem-solving

Good leaders are skilled at problem-solving issues that arise on the job. Effective problem solving often requires staying calm and identifying a step-by-step solution. Problem-solving skills can help leaders make quick decisions, resolve obstacles with their team and external teams alike, and ensure projects are completed on time, according to the specifications. Leaders who are effective problem-solvers also have the following skills:

5. Dependability

Being a dependable leader means that people can trust and rely on you. A dependable person 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. Being a dependable professional means meeting deadlines, being straightforward, coming through on obligations and when you can’t meet a promise or a goal, communicating this early on and having a backup plan. Dependable leaders also have the following skills:

6. Ability to teach and mentor

One skill that differentiates leadership from many other competencies is the ability to teach and mentor. Effectively teaching colleagues or direct reports to grow in their careers helps organizations scale. Often, this skill requires that leaders think less about themselves and more about how to make their team as a whole successful. To be successful as a leader that can teach and mentor a team, you might hone the following related skills:

  • Motivation
  • Clarity
  • Able to recognize and reward
  • Understanding employee differences
  • Assessing
  • Helpfulness
  • Positive reinforcement

How to identify your leadership style

While you will use different styles of leadership for different occasions, identifying your leadership style can help you refine specific skills that will be effective for your team or project. You might use your team or project goals to help identify what leadership styles will be most effective for you.

1. Start by observing how you lead

Your leadership style will likely fit into one of the 10 leadership styles below. Research what characteristics, methods and practices define each style and determine which one best defines yours. You might use a combination of different styles.

2. Consider all the characteristics of your leadership style

Do you meet all the skills and expectations of your leadership style? If not, what goals could you set for yourself to improve?

3. Examine if your current leadership is effective

Whether you employ a mix of different leadership styles or focus on one, is your approach effective at reaching your goals? Ask your team if they feel motivated and productive in their work environment, and if not, what they think could make it more so. It could mean focusing on different methods or a switch to another leadership style altogether.

Here are the most common—and effective—leadership styles to consider:

Learn more: 10 Common Leadership Styles

How to develop your leadership skills

You can practice good leadership skills in any role, at any level. For example, showing up on time to meetings and turning in work on schedule shows dependability. Offering support and coaching to less experienced colleagues is also an 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:

Find resources like books or podcasts about leadership.

A self-study on leadership may help you get a better understanding of how to develop your leadership skills. Many books on the subject exist, including the 1937 Dale Carnegie book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which has been a favorite among many business leaders for decades. There are also many podcasts and video workshops you can find offered at no cost online.

Participate in leadership training courses or workshops.

You can find both in-person and online courses that help teach leadership skills. In-person courses, in particular, often include practice sessions and role play.

Find leadership activities outside of work.

If you have trouble finding leadership opportunities on the job, you may be able to find them outside of your workplace. This can include taking the lead in organizing activities or work outings with your colleagues. At work, there are several leadership-building activities you can try to help you build your skills, while mentoring your team to build theirs.

Read more: 15 Effective Leadership-Building Activities You Can Do Today

To develop your leadership skills outside of work, you can:

Research leadership courses

Leadership skills are in-demand in every industry and so you can choose from a wide range of online and in-person leadership courses, training and workshops. A simple online search will offer multiple options to help you find the best fit for your schedule, skills desired, price and duration.

Become a leader of an existing group

You might belong to a church group, book club, sports team or another hobby or club. Are you the leader? If not, determine if they need one. The best way to bolster leadership skills is by leading.

Start a new group or team

If you have an interest in a particular hobby or sport and your community doesn’t have one, start your own. Planning, initiating and managing a new group that has short- and long-term goals will not only teach you valuable leadership experience but also, enrich your life and develop a hobby.

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. Focus on ways you can develop those qualities and apply them to your work. It might also be helpful to set specific goals toward developing one practice at a time.

Find a mentor

The best way to learn is by studying under those you admire most. If possible, ask a leader you respect to mentor you on a weekly or monthly basis. They can help you set goals toward becoming a better leader by developing skills and using them.

Read more: How to Find a Mentor

How 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. Try incorporating key traits you possess that may be valuable to future employers. You may be able to present those skills in different areas of your resume, such as the skills and achievements sections as well as in the experience section. Your cover letter is also a good place to showcase leadership ability.

Leadership skills for resume

The two sections where you can include your leadership skills on your resume or Indeed Resume are your skills section and the achievements section.

Key leadership skills to include on your resume

The skills section can include leadership skills that you believe any of your professional references can verify on your behalf. Here’s how you can communicate your leadership skills on your resume:

*Skills: Leadership, negotiation, conflict resolution, mentoring, communication*

Or if you prefer more detail in your skills section, use this format:

Skills

  • *Leadership | Lead, mentored, delegated and managed a team of 50 employees to execute and troubleshoot short- and long-term goals for the company. Hired and encouraged a team to consistently meet and then exceed goals every month.*

Meanwhile, your achievements list can include awards or honors that reflect leadership. A good example for listing a leadership achievement might look like this:

Achievements
Company XYZ, Team Leader

  • Achieved a 40% production rate above goal (years 2015, 2016)
  • Won “Company Leader and Mentor Award”(2018)

Related: 25 Leadership Words to Use on Your Resume

Leadership skills for cover letter

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 describe which skill you used and what the outcome was. For example, if you were the project manager for an important initiative, you might explain how you brought the team together around a shared goal and include a metric that demonstrates the success of the project.

Read more: Team Leader Cover Letter Example

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

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