14 Essential Leadership Competencies for Success

Learn how to become a more successful and effective leader by developing and nurturing these essential 14 leadership competencies.

By Mara Calvello  •   January 16, 2024  •   7 min read

A lot goes into being a successful leader, as an individual needs to have several skills and competencies in their arsenal, ready at a moment’s notice. These days, leadership requires honing not just one specific skill, but many. 

Whether you’re a CEO, manager, or HR leader, learning how to grow and enhance leadership competencies within your role can help you reach new levels in your career and assist team members and direct reports to grow in their roles, too.  

Interested in honing more leadership competencies and improving the skills you already have? We’ve outlined 14 cognitive, business, interpersonal, and strategic skills that are a great starting point to becoming a more effective leader. 

What are leadership competencies and why are they so important? 

Leadership competencies—sometimes referred to as leadership skills—are the qualities, skills, and attributes an individual possesses that make them an exceptional leader. These competencies—like confidence, delegation, and emotional intelligence—make it possible to have successful and meaningful relationships in a work setting.

These skills are crucial for several reasons. For instance, a manager or executive with exceptional leadership competencies can make better decisions, motivate their team, lead change management effectively, make the most of their team’s performance, and promote sustainable organizational growth.

Ultimately, people leaders and team managers with strong leadership competencies will be able to inspire others, help lead teams to success, and encourage everyone to strive for greatness. Every organization wants several leaders with these competencies on their staff to help achieve success in the long haul.

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Main types of leadership competencies 

The main types of leadership competencies can be broken down into four main categories: leading self, leading others, leading the organization, and leading implementation. Within each are subcategories on which an individual can focus when striving to improve or grow their leadership competencies.

Leading self

The first subcategory is leading self. Self-leadership boils down to the soft skills one should strive to hone in their day-to-day routine, regardless of their role or responsibilities.

1. Integrity: An individual with integrity does the right thing, even when no one is watching or they won’t get credit or recognition for doing so. These leaders behave fairly, honestly, and ethically while staying true to their values and character in all types of situations. Integrity focuses on emotional intelligence and building trust with others within an organization. 

2. Self-confidence: Someone with self-confidence is likely focused on showing this confidence in their leadership practices without coming off as arrogant, bossy, or self-centered. Strong leaders also have confidence when learning new skills, taking on new projects, and coaching others to reach their own success.

3. Agility: This is where an individual is quick on their feet and always ready to learn new things or pivot a strategy. Instead of being afraid of change, these types of leaders embrace and learn from it. Being agile means you can respond to internal or external circumstances quickly and professionally and offer a flexible mindset without becoming overwhelmed. 

Leading others

The next subcategory of leadership attributes and competencies is being able to lead others. These skills coincide with someone’s ability to have interpersonal relationships at work, intervene in personal conflicts, influence workplace culture, and handle the ins and outs of their team.

4. Emotional intelligence: A must-have skill to lead others is emotional intelligence. Sometimes referred to as EQ (emotional quotient), this is the ability to understand, manage, and use emotions positively in situations where you can reduce stress, communicate more effectively, diffuse conflict, show empathy towards others, and overcome challenges. For a leader to be respected, they need to know how to maintain a respectful and professional demeanor—especially in high-stress situations.

5. Conflict resolution: Competent leaders can also manage and reduce conflict amongst their teams to instill a productive work environment. Without resolution, conflicts can negatively impact the atmosphere within the organization and employee morale. And while conflicts are unavoidable, a strong leader can minimize them so they don’t get out of control or have long-term detrimental effects.

6. People management: Knowing how to manage others is another crucial element for leading in the workplace. Depending on one’s leadership level, people management involves overseeing the training, development, motivation, and day-to-day management of direct reports and employees. Necessary for everything from having one-on-one meetings to evaluating performance, this leadership competency is crucial across all industries. Leaders can make use of software like Fellow and its feedback feature to incorporate feedback into their team’s day-to-day experience and track progress over time.

7. Initiative: An individual who shows initiative can make important decisions and complete tasks without anyone having to ask them to do so. These leaders see a need and do what’s necessary to fill it. They also focus their energy on getting projects and strategies off to a good start by doing the research, forming a strong team, and creating a plan to get things off the ground. Showing initiative also stems from being confident in one’s own abilities and skill set.

8. Communication: It should go without saying that good leaders consistently share concise, clear, and transparent information with their teams and direct reports. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication and goes hand-in-hand with their ability to listen actively. Knowing how to share ideas with team members and provide detailed instructions for success is crucial for any type of leader.

Promote a culture of asking for feedback

A healthy and strong culture starts with feedback. With Fellow, you can incorporate feedback into your team’s day-to-day experience and track progress over time.

Leading the organization

Next, an individual with leadership competencies will also know how to lead an organization to new heights, helping to achieve goals related to marketing, sales, and more.

9. Problem-solving: The best leaders know how to identify, analyze, and solve a wide variety of problems and challenges. Before making suggestions and sharing solutions, they’ll likely test the accuracy and relevancy of the information at hand and come up with alternative solutions to issues as they arise. No problem is too small or trivial for their input.

10. Decision-making: Similarly, these leaders are great at making informed, timely, effective, and reliable decisions. Even when they’re armed with limited data or making decisions under challenging circumstances, they’ll always strive to hear everyone’s perspectives and consider the long-term impact of their decisions. They also know when to come to these conclusions by themselves, when to ask other team members or colleagues for their opinions, and when to step back and let others weigh in.

Leading implementation

Finally, several leadership core competencies pertain to how to lead implementation.

11. Coaching and mentoring: Every leader should know how to identify and coach new leaders, whether in their current organization or one they may be within in the future. Knowing how to coach others and be a mentor requires trust, a strong work ethic, and a professional reputation. This could entail knowing when to push someone past their comfort zone, giving useful and productive feedback, and helping colleagues find their vision.

12. Planning: Knowing how to lead implementation also means this individual should be adept at planning. Whether for marketing strategies, budgets, project roadmaps, or hiring processes, someone with leadership competencies will know how to form a plan and see it through.

13. Monitoring performance: Another key competency leaders must master is knowing how to monitor their team’s performance and direct reports. These individuals are responsible for accountability and fostering top-notch performance within their department. They also need to know when to take a competency-based approach to remove someone with substandard performance from their team.

14. Inclusiveness: Finally, competent leaders value diversity and personal differences. They can help establish an inclusive workplace with a collaborative team culture. Having this type of culture can go a long way in helping team members complete projects and meet deadlines. 

Effectively lead and manage with Fellow

Regardless of the industry you’re in or the company you work for, leadership competencies are essential for every leader. Knowing how to hone these competencies and attributes can help you have a positive influence in the workplace, create a successful brand as a leader, and motivate your team to achieve various types of goals.

Interested in taking how you lead and manage one step further? Effective leaders use Fellow, an all-in-one meeting management software for remote and hybrid teams, to become more efficient, stay connected with hybrid or remote team members, and always remain informed on performance and progress. With so many features and services, Fellow is perfect for leaders looking to connect with and reach their team members.

With enhanced AI capabilities, Fellow’s AI Meeting Copilot automatically records, transcribes, and summarizes meetings so leaders can focus on connecting with their team members and nurturing their competencies.

Plus, those armed with Fellow in their tech stack can automatically send post-meeting recaps that will keep everyone within an organization updated with all the latest information. Fellow also boasts a library of more than 500 ready-to-use meeting agenda templates for anything a team might need before, during, and after a meeting.

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