Today’s managers and leaders are increasingly in charge of not top down work delegation, but, rather, people and strategy management. This shift has changed now just how leaders work, but also which skills they need to succeed. Good project management is no longer enough to take on a role as manager.
Despite that, many leaders are promoted internally from technical positions, hired on following having similar roles in other organizations, or simply promoted internally for no reason other than seniority.
This leads to massive skills gaps in leadership and management, which do ripple downward, no matter how flat your organization.
In fact, Burning Glass Technologies shows that management skills gaps are significantly larger than employee skills gaps at any other level.
Despite those gaps, many businesses don’t actively work to correct these leadership issues. One study by APQC shows that 80% of employees recognize a need for different leadership styles, 21% think leadership is effective, and just 46% of companies place any priority on remediation efforts.
Good leadership impacts every part of business. It affects how individuals feel about work, team management, work delegation, motivation, and much more. While, eventually, you will need a skills gap analysis to correctly determine where to invest remediation efforts, most leaders can improve on many of the following 10 skills.
Closing these skills gaps can improve leadership style, boost employee retention, and improve productivity.
10 Skills for leadership to improve
1) Team Building
While team building has largely and historically fallen on HR, it’s critical that leaders be involved. Not only do leaders, whether team leads, branch leads, or managers, have to interact with teams daily, leaders know the work being completed.
Anyone in a leadership position should interact with HR and help make key decisions regarding hires, placement, and restructure. Leaders should be able to:
- Recognize when personality conflicts get in the way of a team
- Coach and manage teams to improve how they collaborate
- Choose new people and introduce them to a team efficiently and effectively
- Create a team environment built on trust and collaboration
Strategy was once pushed down through an organization from the very top. Today, many teams and departments are relatively autonomous, with freedom to work on goals however they see fit.
This creates a rising need for those organizations to ensure leaders have strong strategic planning, with a good understanding of business goals, the ability to link daily work and tasks to business outcomes, and sound logic in building plans. Much of this is a learnable skill, although some people will show no aptitude for it whatsoever.
Listening is one of the largest parts of people management, but many managers are still more accustomed to talking. Why is it important? Listening is a critical soft skill that contributes to good people management in multiple ways.
For example, it ensures the leader understands situations as related, can learn more about both sides of a situation before acting, can make individuals feel heard, and can weigh in on arguments and conflict with relevant information.
Listening means paying attention to what the individual is saying, understanding their meaning, and taking body language, emotions, and contextual information into account.
4) Knowledge Sharing
Organizational transparency is quickly becoming not just a key point for developing trust, but also a key reason that employees stay with companies. Leaders who don’t share information, whether information regarding upcoming goals, drivers behind projects, stakeholder feedback, or news of an upcoming restructure, will quickly lose the trust of their teams. Knowledge sharing means being able to push information to employees in a sensitive, contextual, and appropriate manner.
5) Inspiring Commitment
Getting new people onboard with and motivated to stay with a company, to start a project, to reach a deadline, or otherwise achieve something is difficult. In fact, many leaders are bad at it.
Working as an inspirational leader means developing the trust of the team, properly leveraging incentives, utilizing good teambuilding, and knowing how and when to push people to keep them motivated and on-goal. This is, understandably, incredibly important for most organizations. Yet, it’s one of the largest gaps in leadership skills.
6) Receiving Feedback
You can’t properly give feedback unless you’re willing to take feedback. Yet, many leaders simply aren’t accustomed to sitting down and requesting feedback from staff or making changes accordingly.
Leaders who can sit down with their teams, accept criticism, and discuss improvements that work for the team and the people will be valued, respected, and listened to.
Here, 360-degree feedback can be valuable because it gives teams an easy way to offer leaders feedback from every perspective. Most leaders should also be comfortable having sit-down sessions to discuss leadership style, what can be improved, etc., as a normal part of process.
7) Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Emotional intelligence is widely recognized as one of the most important leadership skills. Daniel Goleman’s book on the topic redefined how people see leaders. Yet, more than 20 years onward, it’s still one of the most lacking skills in leadership.
Emotional intelligence encompasses how individuals are able to recognize and manage their own emotions and those of others, responding to emotions in others, and making decisions based on those emotions. It benefits organizations because it builds team trust, improves employee loyalty and happiness, and ensures that teams are happy and productive by taking their mental and emotional wellbeing into account.
Coaching is the process of working individuals through a process or problem and helping them to find solutions, to grow, and to improve themselves. It’s a critical part of personal development, and a critical leadership skill.
Why? A leader without coaching will simply tell someone how to solve a problem or tell them what to do. A coach will explain the problem and help that person figure out how to solve the problem on their own. The next time it comes up, that person is well-equipped to repeat the thought process and solve that or a similar problem on their own. Coaching helps people learn, to improve, and to be better at what they do.
Many leaders simply don’t do coaching at any level, even when in charge of onboarding new hires, when in charge of developing potential new leaders, or when choosing candidates for their own replacement. Integrating and teaching coaching skills could greatly improve all three of those leadership responsibilities.
9) Change Management
Change management is quickly moving from something organizations needed once a decade to something needed on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. New technology, new tooling, new workflows, remote work, digital workspaces, virtual computers all require change and change management. A quickly changing world means industries and markets constantly shift, leading to faster restructurers, more mergers, and new business branches that come and go. Leaders must be equipped to help their teams through those changes, offering guidance, acting as an example, delivering coaching, and offering reassurance.
Many leaders are promoted from internal positions, meaning they come from skilled and technical work, not from management work. While not all leaders will have this problem, Ram Charan’s Leadership Pipeline cites it as one of the primary barriers to promoting leadership.
Work delegation means that when new work is available, leaders should be responsible for delegating and helping their teams to do it and do it well. Their job is to facilitate, not to complete work. Leaders who attempt to do so, even if doing work is simply reviewing work completed, eventually function as bottlenecks rather than as functional parts of the team.
Still, making the change from doing technical work to delegating work is a large one, which means your organization should offer training each time someone is promoted through the ranks to a new leadership position.
Leadership skills gaps affect the organization as a whole. They impact productivity, team motivation, employee loyalty, and collaboration. Performing a skills gap analysis, conduction 360-feedback, and offering courses and workshops to help close the gaps you do find can greatly benefit the organization for the long-term.