10 June 2022
To be a great business leader, experience, expertise, and advanced soft skills are required. These qualities empower leaders to create harmonious work environments, turn ideas into reality, and lead their team to tremendous results.
Backed by scientific research, this guide explores nine of the most important leadership skills that every manager needs to drive themselves, their team and company to success.
Skilled leaders improve business productivity and performance
Poor management is the biggest single contributor to low productivity in the UK, according to the Chartered Management Institute's research, and across the globe it costs $8.1 trillion in lost productivity every year. Leaders skilled in building trust, accountability, and respect generate higher employee morale, efficiency, and engagement, compared to leaders using authoritarian leadership styles.
Skilled leaders attract and retain talent
Half of people who quit their jobs do so because their manager struggles to provide learning opportunities, give clear instructions, build strong relationships, or make decisions.
The best leaders lead by example by delivering high-quality work, encouraging inclusion, and putting their people first. This helps build a strong sense of belonging that attracts and retains top talent.
Skilled leaders cultivate a creative and innovative culture
They keep employees accountable to deadlines and targets, and create a secure environment where employees feel empowered to take risks, share unusual ideas and try out new experiences.
And studies suggest that companies that invest in creativity have happier employees.
Globally, poor management costs companies $8.1 trillion in lost productivity every year.
Based on research, here are vital leadership qualities that the best leaders possess:
Through Attunement, leaders can read the system, identify tensions, and then navigate them using their core skills to achieve better results.
Often leaders become over reliant on rigid leadership models and find themselves stuck between competing priorities, such as needing to increase productivity without burning employees out.
By grasping the art of attunement, emotionally intelligent leaders become more flexible and prepared to overcome tensions.
No leader can do everything by themselves.
Great leaders learn how to assign the right tasks to their team members and give them the support they need to complete it. The CEOs who excel in delegating generate 33% higher revenue, as they benefit from having more time to focus on higher-value activities, such as strategy or client relationship building.
Whether it’s transmitting information, inspiring others or coaching colleagues, leaders must communicate with people clearly across their organisation.
A failure to do so directly impacts business results. Up to 70% of business mistakes are due to poor communication and this costs companies up to $62.4 million per year.
Critical to creating an inclusive workplace, empathetic leaders make decisions after seeking to understand the needs, feelings, and thoughts of others.
Up to 61% of employees with empathetic leaders say they also feel innovative in the workplace, compared to only 13% of those with less empathetic leaders.
Similarly, just a third of people with low-empathy leaders say they are "often or always engaged" at work – compared to 76% of their peers who have high-empathy leaders.
People who are learning agile enjoy learning new things and applying their new knowledge to challenging situations.
Research shows that a high level of learning agility is linked to better job performance.
They’re the leaders who ask incisive questions, request feedback and are good at discovering patterns when solving problems.
Google and Procter & Gamble developed the learning agility of their marketing and HR employees by launching employee swaps, and saw their people return with innovative ideas and knowledge on how to improve their business.
Treating people with respect isn’t just the right thing to do, it eases tensions and conflict, creates trust, and improves employee effectiveness.
There are two main types of respect in the workplace:
In a survey of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide, respondents ranked respect as the most important leadership behaviour. And it is linked to better staff retention and engagement.
Providing clarity and focus, a powerful leadership vision drives colleagues to produce their best. Research shows that when leaders set a great vision and communicate it to others in the right way, it increases the rate employees achieve their goals.
Visionary leaders convey why every person in the team is critical to the organisation’s mission, identity, and purpose, and how their contribution will impact the business and customers.
Great leaders don’t shift blame. They give others credit when the team is successful and don’t hide away when things don’t go well.
Working with a leader that protects the team by taking ownership over projects and accountability for their decisions gives their team confidence and builds stronger trust.
Leaders that create a high-trust culture experience a 50% increase in employee productivity, 29% rise in satisfaction and a 76% leap in engagement.
Want to help your team go the extra mile?
A study by Prof. Dan Ariely found that personal sentiments are one of the best methods of motivating employees. During an experiment in a factory, personal ‘Thank You’ messages kept employees motivated and productive for longer than financial or food incentives.
Motivational leaders value employees and ensure their work is meaningful, creating a goodwill that makes them want to go beyond their job description to help the whole company succeed.
Creating a high-trust culture increases employee productivity by 50%, satisfaction by 29% and engagement by 76%.
70% of leaders say they are overworked and it’s hardly a surprise. The transition to hybrid working has heaped further pressure on managers to maintain and improve team productivity, with a team that spends little time together in the same office.
Teams spread across various locations experience higher levels of task conflict – disagreements about what work they are doing. They also experience greater interpersonal conflicts; disputes about how the team works together to achieve their goals.
This leads to more meetings and longer working days, as teams try to stay on the same page.
Simultaneously, leaders are catalysts for developing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and generating a happier, healthier, and higher performing workforce.
But $19bn a year is often wasted on diversity training that risk doing more harm than good by increasing prejudice and fueling a new polarisation within their companies.
And poor wellbeing is widespread. In the UK, 822,000 workers experienced work-related stress, depression, or anxiety last year. Across the Atlantic, 83% of US workers endure work-related stress, forcing about one million people to miss work each day.
The timeless skills listed above like communication, empathy and motivation will remain essential to leaders successfully tackling these problems and building an inclusive, healthier, and united culture.
In the UK, 822,000 workers experienced work-related stress, depression, or anxiety last year.
83% of US workers endure work-related stress, forcing about one million people to miss work each day.
Intelligence, empathy, and other key psychological qualities that make leaders more effective can be found in individuals from an early age, while people with those attributes are more likely to seek out (or be directed to) the very experiences that “teach” them leadership.
However, research by Ericsson et al shows that it takes thousands of hours of deliberate practice to acquire proficiency in a skill – and suggests innate talent plays a less significant role.
Therefore, great leadership is learnable, and MindGym’s leadership development solution helps people grow as leaders by developing habits, behaviours or emotional changes that improve leadership. 
In addition to core leadership skills, such as communication, delegation, and empathy, MindGym’s leadership development solution teaches leaders how and when to use those tools to make the best decisions, surpass blockers and accelerate high performance.
By applying four practices - Noticing, Sense-making, Choosing, Acting - leaders can keep up with ever-evolving situations and feel equipped to overcome their biggest workplace challenges.
Discover how your organisation can make leadership learnable to your managers by reading our free Leadership Regained report.