5 Essential Leadership Skills

Today’s leaders and employees have new challenges – while technology can make us more effective, the importance of trust and establishing long-term relationships can’t be stressed enough. These skills go beyond technology:

Be Unique

“Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.“ –Bruce Lee

To stand out, you have to be original. Being original involves taking time to really think about material that you hear or read. Ask “How does this relate to finding solutions for the problems that I need to solve?”

  • When you have an idea, present it with a unique perspective that inspires people to get behind it.
  • Apply knowledge from one area to another or synthesize ideas from different disciplines to giv your idea more depth and functionality
  • Find a new way to communicate key concepts or approach a problem – this will get people to listen to your idea even if it’s something they have rejected or ignored before

Be Effective

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

It’s not about getting things done quickly or doing the most in the shortest time. Rather than doing a bunch of busywork, take time to formulate a vision and set priorities and goals. Find a balance between doing the urgent and important things. Focus on the important things:

  • What are the short- and long-term challenges?
  • In what way will you contribute unique value in addressing these challenges?
  • What potential barriers will you face and how will you deal with them?
  • What skills and resources do you need to optimally provide and support these new services/technologies?
  • How can your team support people to do their best work and support customers to get the best use out of your products/services?

Be Resilient

“Fall seven times, Stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

Everybody makes mistakes. The bigger your goals, the more mistakes you will make. Being innovative means trying new things; and venturing where nobody has gone before. It’s easier to do things the way they’ve always been done, but your long-term impact will be less. If you want to have a memorable and long-term impact, you need to take strategic risks, and that means you will fail sometimes. Self-confidence is key. Often this comes from having prior successful experiences. Even if you’re doing something new, remember your prior successes, and the personal qualities you have that created them.

  • If you believe in your mission and abilities, failure is just a temporary detour.
  • Most failures contain one or more lessons. Be willing to admit your contribution to the failure, and be ready to change your thinking about the issue.
  • Listen to and collaborate with others, but do not suppress your own voice and goals.

Embrace Change

“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity. “ – Peter Drucker

We live in a time of rapid technological, geographical, and economic change. Old formulas don’t apply as well. Mobile technology makes the world smaller and increases the access & knowledge of those who previously had no voice. This creates many challenges, but also opens the door to new opportunities.

  • The human brain naturally resists change, seeing it as a threat.
  • It is important to counteract your brain’s natural, fear-based, conservative tendencies and cultivate an optimistic attitude to change.
  • Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that change brings up in you. See if you can watch fearful reactions without feeling you have to act on them.

Stay Grounded

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. “ – Lao Tzu

Do not get  distracted by your ego. Success does not make you invincible or more worthy than other people. Every person has something to contribute. Be patient with the process. Results take time. You may have to go through a stage of investing your time and resources, learning new skills, putting ideas out there and waiting for them to take root.

  • Always keep the meaning of your work at the forefront.
    Why are you doing what you do?
    What contribution do you want to make to bettering the lives of others?
  • Value the simple things in life, such as nature, health, friends, coworkers, and family.
  • Practice mindful self-awareness to learn compassion for yourself and others.
  • Work hard, but don’t drive yourself like a machine. Life is a marathon, not a sprint., so use your energy wisely and know when you need to replenish.
  • You may have underlying needs, that drive you, such as to be acknowledged, have power, be part of a group, be respected, cared about, and so on. The more you understand and acknowledge these needs, the less they will get in the way of your mission.

While the old model of business emphasized dominance and power, the new models are more about vision, focus, communication, cognitive flexibility, authenticity, and partnership.

The world is too complicated to be effective alone. The way to succeed is to form meaningful, trusting relationships with others who have different skills and knowledge, but similar goals and values.


inspired by Five Essential Skills for Leadership in the 21st Century | Psychology Today.