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April 4, 2023

Five Essential Leadership Skills You Need Today

Developing leadership skills with a team.

Leaders are working to increase their level of performance out of a necessary response to the historically unique and challenging marketplace.  Compulsory leadership skills complement a larger skillset that has more to do with the interworking thought process powering today’s effective leaders. Responsive leaders are getting more out of their teams because they can apply tactics that they customized for the moment, person, and circumstance.

These five essential skills help leaders thrive in today’s market.

#1. Cross-functional Development 

Leading Cross-functional teams – According to data collected by the Harvard Business Review, workplace collaboration has increased by at least 50% over the past two decades, while over 75% of an average employee’s day involves communicating with colleagues. Leaders need to balance their support for collaborative work with protecting their team’s ability to meet their key objectives. Leaders may also have to head up a cross-functional team to accomplish a joint objective. Leaders with less experience working in a cross-functional way can benefit from specific coaching in this area. Core skills to ramp up for this type of integrated leadership include: 

  • Establishing clear and efficient communication channels/practices between groups
  • Maintaining an organized project management process with adequate planning, timelines, and boundaries
  • Conflict resolution  
  • Continual evaluation – accepting failure, and revisiting the problem with a new solution 

Every leader can improve their cross-functional leadership performance. Working on these specific skills can improve the outcomes teams produce whenever they form and reshape themselves around different projects. Leaders affect more than their own direct reports when their teams begin to touch other groups in the organization. So it’s important to get this one right. 

#2. Maintain Cohesive Teams  

Workplace wellness statistics reveal that extremely connected teams demonstrate a 21% increase in profitability and 59% fewer workers leave the company.

Cohesive teams:

  • work with trust and accountability at their core. 
  • respect one another, 
  • work autonomously, and 
  • commit to the decision-making process even if they don’t ‘love’ the solution reached. 

Leaders of cohesive teams welcome independent thinking, additional input, and objections. It’s not easy in today’s market, because leaders need to be more present. But moving close can end up blowing up team cohesion if it’s done in a panicked, hyper-vigilant way. Cohesive team leaders can artfully move close to their teams while not cramping their autonomy. One way to do this is to have quick informal systems for people to question your plans. It can be as simple as a quick team meeting where you explain what you’re planning to do and check the reaction then.

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#3. EQ And Emotional Resilience 

‘Keep calm and carry on.’ There’s a difference between urgent and frantic. Leaders need to preserve mental health along with executing the team’s objectives. Do what you can to help your team stay in a productive mental state by the way you communicate and how you manage the work environment. 

  • People are far less likely to tolerate a pushy leader. Hold a conservatively steady pace of ideas, decisions, and actions. 
  • Maintain a calm and in-control effect that you want your team to have. Do not transmit feelings of worry to your team with your restless body language or jittery tone of voice. 
  • Keep reasonable deadlines and resist the urge to speed them up. The best solution may not be the quickest. 

Your principle about cohesive teams shows up in the way you communicate your response to change. You mirror how your team should respond.

  • Carry out changes with an encouraging conviction and use a change process that respects the physiological health of the individuals on the team. 
  • Give them the time they need and a calm, clear explanation. 
  • No matter how you feel about the change, show the team your calm commitment.

#4. Relationship Driven Leaders 

Keep focusing on relationships as a key part of performance management. People don’t quit or “quiet quit” jobs because the work is more challenging. They quit due to reduced confidence in the leader, the team, or the company. People leave when they feel neglected and mistreated. Leaders in today’s market must take care of their teams so they’ll stick with them through the tough spots.  

  • Even though it may feel like prudent leadership to focus on doing more work and fixing weak areas during an uncertain market, don’t add so many action items that there’s no time for talent development and team-building activities. 
  • Keep the special qualitative benefits like a flexible work week, parental perks, or employee health and wellness initiatives. These things help to nurture the physical and emotional needs that workers have and keep a healthy working relationship with the leader.  
  • Leaders today need high levels of empathy and tact. They must respond adequately to the internal and external stresses impacting their team, with an understanding and encouraging tone.
    People hunger to know their leaders. More leaders are revealing their authentic selves to their teams, thereby squishing misunderstandings and assumptions that can fill the vacuum when a leader stays distant. A shy leader may come off as uncaring, and uninterested. But if that leader reveals their shyness to the team, they’ll work to engage them in a different way. Leaders find authenticity frees them up to truly serve and connect with their teams. The more leaders acknowledge their struggles, the less of a battle they are. 

The soft skills of management play an equally important if not more important role in a tight market. Relationship-focused managers are better equipped to help teams be at their best so they can effectively execute any push-through initiatives.

Related: 5 Business Benefits of Leadership Coaching

#5. Adaptable Leadership Style

Leadership is a science, but also an art. Leaders have to be able to grow skills over time and to shift into different styles as they apply them situationally. Leaders in today’s market have a continuous learning mindset toward their leadership capacity. They keep working at it, knowing they’ll never arrive at perfection. 

The adaptive model of leadership means that leaders use keen responsiveness with teams to know what the team needs from them and provide that in the moment. Principals stay the same, but leaders stay sensitive to the environment impacting employees. Leaders shy away from formulaic leadership moves because they don’t create enduring results. 

Leaders can sharpen these five key leadership skills to increase their ability to build strong teams that reach their goals even in a challenging market. Private leadership coaching can help busy leaders make time for their own development, which can be hard to do In a fast pace work environment. Leaders who prioritize critical skill improvements in themselves likely end up leading their teams to produce defining team outcomes.

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