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Spotlight on essential leadership competencies

by Chloe Baird

Have you heard the phrase, ‘leaders are born, nor made’? This phrase indicates that you have to be born with a particular personality and set of traits in order to be a good leader. It states that the necessary skills to become a successful leader are inherent and cannot be taught.

This just isn’t true. Otherwise, there’d be absolutely no need for leadership and management training programs.

While it’s true that some people have more of a desire to lead than others, this doesn’t mean that they’re a naturally talented leader. To become a truly successful leader, it takes experience, time, effort and training.

If you’re looking to progress up the career ladder and become a great leader yourself one day, there are a few skills you need to help you get there. You may find that you already possess some of these skills – which is great! But as a true leader, you’ll recognise that there is always room for improvement, and that great leaders never stop learning.

Read on to discover the core competencies of effective leadership, and what it takes to become a great leader in business.

What does it take to become an effective leader?

The difference between management and leadership

The difference between leaders and Managers is that leaders lead and Managers manage. Leaders have people who follow them and Managers have a team that they oversee.

This does not mean the roles are mutually exclusive. In business, it’s important to combine the qualities of management and leadership to get the best results for your team.

To find out why it’s so important to combine effective leadership and management read our blog, ‘How do leadership and management complement one another?’

The core competencies of effective leadership

These are some examples of leadership skills needed to be a successful and effective leader.

1. Communication skills

An effective leader openly and honestly communicates with their staff and is always ready to listen to what their employees have to say. Transparency is important, and your employees will appreciate it.

Those in leadership positions often have to communicate with a wide range of people, including clients and upper management. So being able to communicate your message clearly and succinctly, sometimes between different parties, is imperative.

2. Problem-solving skills

If a tough problem arises, good leaders need to know how to deal with it. They don’t relegate the hard work to others – they start planning ways they can solve the issue. And if they come up against an obstacle they don’t know how to deal with, they bring in extra help to solve the issue as a team.

It could be a question about making an operations process more cost-effective, or resolving an issue between two co-workers. Whatever the problem, a good leader needs to be ready to take charge and find the best solution.

There are a number of complementary skills needed to become a successful leader.

3. Decision-making skills

Sometimes leaders need to make tough calls. But a good leader will always be well informed about a situation and be able to make their decision based on research, facts and evidence. This means keeping in contact with the relevant stakeholders and obtaining the needed information from various parties.

Good decision-making skills don’t equal fast decision-making skills. It’s not so much about the time it takes to make a decision, so much as the effort that goes into the thought process. That said, sometimes swift action is needed. But if you’ve been keeping up to date with all the latest information from your team, then you should be well-informed enough (most of the time) to make quick executive decisions.

This is where your communication skills will come in, too, as you need to be able to let your team know the exact reasons behind your decision making.

4. Organisational skills

As someone in a leadership position, you’ll be overseeing a team. This could be a small team or a large team of people. But no matter the size, you still need to have great organisational skills so that you’re on the ball at all times.

Poor planning can lead to a host of different problems for you and your team. It could mean that because of your ability to plan, your team has to stay back late on a Friday to get a particular project done on time. Or it could mean that your team wastes time and effort on a job that hasn’t been thought out properly.

Good leaders are able to organise and plan with efficiency, ensuring that work is completed on time, projects are seen through from beginning to end, and no team member is being unfairly under- or overworked than others.

Despite what you might have heard, leadership skills can be taught.

5. Relationship building and coaching skills

Having empathy is an important trait for leaders, as it allows them to better connect with and understand their team members.

This flows into how you, as a leader, build relationships with your team and encourage their success and growth through coaching the team.

Some team members will perform certain tasks better than others. Good leaders should be able to spot their team members strengths and weaknesses and assign them to the tasks they’re best suited for. However, you should always try to coach your team members improve upon their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

Through relationship building and coaching, you can aim to get the absolute best out of every single one of your team members.

6. Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is all about being able to plan ahead. Strategic thinking involves discovering and developing new opportunities to create value, whether that’s in the form of profits, efficiency, retention, or anything else that can add value to the company.

Strategic planning follows strategic thinking. Once you’ve seized on areas for improvement, it’s time to put your ideas into action and capitalise on these opportunities.

Strategic thinking can be a learned skill. At first it might be difficult to try and seek out areas for improvement, especially in a business which doesn’t, at first glance, seem to need improvements. But part of being a strategic thinker is not to look at everything in a critical or negative light, but instead to simply try and see things from a different perspective.

Good leaders need to have a wide scope of perspective and need to be able to see the big picture as well as the small. This will enable them to improve on their strategic thinking skills, so that they can lead the way on creating positive outcomes for employees and the business.

How to become a highly effective leader

Becoming a better leader doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires dedication and perseverance, even when things don’t work out the way you wanted them to.

Undertaking a course in leadership and management can give you a big push in the right direction if you’re ready to start making things happen.

OC offers two online courses in business management and leadership: the BSB51918 Diploma of Leadership and Management and the BSB42015 Certificate IV in Leadership and Management. 

As these courses are both offered online, you’ll have the flexibility and freedom to study whenever you want, wherever you are.

What are you waiting for? Take the next step forward in your career and enrol with OC today. 

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