6 Most Important Leadership Skills


Leadership skill — There’s a lot of books written on leadership, talents, skills and business management which I’ve read and yet to read. Thus, it can be a frustrating task to distillate the main skills required for a guaranteed success, if there’s such thing as guaranteed success.

Among my favorite, would be the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit by Stephen R. Covey, and Angela Duckworth’s Grit.

And nowadays, the nature of work has changed dramatically and the future of work might require these six vital skills. Mainly from the technological aspect, cybersecurity, and data security.

Hence, leaders need to learn to lead more effectively, as Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.”


(1) Creativity leadership skill

IBM conducted a survey on over 1500 leaders around the globe asking about the number one quality that they look for in leaders.

The answer?


A quote on IBM report called “Capitalizing on Complexity“, said that “In an uncertain and volatile world, CEOs realize that creativity trumps other leadership characteristics.

Creative leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and experimentation. They invite disruptive innovation, encourage others to drop outdated approaches, and take balanced risks. Although, creative innovation should always, without fail, prioritized the process safety management when it involved in process management.

What’s the most creative thing you’ve done in your career?

What are you creating right now for yourself, your team, your organization?

Creativity doesn’t just mean arts and crafts – finding creative solutions to today’s problems is key to the future of work.

Further Reading on creativity

Read more creativity from our previous post on creativity by Ken Robinson’s “Out of Our minds” and Edward B. Burger’s “Making up Your Own Mind“.


(2) Innovation leadership skill

According to a 2018 survey from PWC, creativity and innovation go hand in hand, you can’t have innovation without creativity. Together, those are the top two skills that 77% of CEOs seek. Such skills are almost very desireable in the startup community.

Today, work rarely follows a pattern. Especially where routine work and tasks can easily be automated and outsourced to a simple computer program by a simple algorithm.

True, there are elements of consistency required for any business process. Consider that the nature of work has changed since the Industrial Revolution: most people are not working on an assembly line, repeating the same pattern over and over. If you want to prepare for the future of work, get ready to innovate.

The gig economy is a great example, as millions of workers move quickly from one opportunity to the next – offering different services and innovating for a variety of employers.

Create a pattern, don’t follow one.


(3) Empathy leadership skill

The Story of Anne

Consider the story of Anne: she was in her second month of nursing school when her professor gave her a test. The test seemed reasonably straightforward, but the final question was a bit of a show-stopper —

What is the name of the woman who cleans the school?

The nursing student realized that she had seen the woman many times. But her name was a mystery. She turned in her paper with a blank on the final question.

Anne asked the teacher, “Will that final question count towards our grade?”

The professor replied, “Paying attention to the people around you always matters to your grade. And your career.”

Recognizing the people around you, and the contribution they make, is an important skill – how strong is your empathy towards others?

Further Reading on Empathy

Learn more on empathy by reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong, Leading Beyond Ego and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.


(4) Listening leadership skill

Leadership starts with listening and listening is a skill everyone needs to acquire. Indeed the mantra that “none of us is as smart as all of us” is easy to see.

Still, many leaders are only in love with the sound of their own voice, so listening is difficult when there is an ego blockage. As Yogi Berra famously said, “In theory, practice and theory are the same.

In practice, they are not.” One of the most powerful portions of my leadership workshop focuses on that often-forgotten skill: truly listening to what others have to share. It takes courage, and focus, to take your attention off of yourself, your phone, your DISC profile, your outfit and your hairstyle…so that you can hear what matters most.

The key to listening?

Tap into your inner detective. Get curious about the conversation, and look for what you haven’t heard before. Ask questions that show you are tuned in and turned on to the subject at hand. And show how you are going to take action with the information you gather – because active listening is the kind that leaders always practice!

Further reading on “listening” skill


(5) Emotional Intelligence leadership skill

Are you able to monitor and manage your own emotional state at work?

That’s the central theme of EQ or emotional intelligence. For leaders with a high degree of emotional intelligence, conflict isn’t a catastrophe. Because understanding your own emotions and the emotional states of others means you can observe those emotions – not be consumed by them.

Want to test your own EQ and get ready for the future of work?

Think about your last meeting. Look to your own intuition like a leader and ask yourself —

How was everyone doing?

What were people feeling about the discussion, issues, and personalities in that room?

What did you sense beyond what you heard?

Understanding your own emotional state is the first step in self-leadership, and the future of work demands clear-headed insights to tap into the other skills on this list.


(6) Persistence leadership skill

The writer Elbert Hubbard said, “The greatest mistake you can make in life is continually fearing you will make one.”

Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Babe Ruth, and Oprah Winfrey were all fired at some point in their careers.

But that event didn’t define them, did it?

Persistence is wired into our DNA if we choose to tap into it. And one word can point you there. That word? Because. When you see that it’s because of your past that you want to create a new future, you realize that you don’t have to give up.

Further reading on how to develop resilience and resistance would be “Stronger” by Dennis K. McCormack.


Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

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