10 Leadership Competencies You Should Not Live Without

The key to successful leadership today is INFLUENCE not AUTHORITY. What would you say are the most significant leadership competencies?
leadership competencies
Paying attention to these leadership competencies?
Check out our thoughts on team leverage.
Are they ones that you continue to hone and develop?  Do they hold the keys to future successes in leadership?
I have been in the military and business world for forty years and often get asked what I believe are the most important leadership competencies. It takes time and practice to be a top line leader.  You are not borne with leadership competencies. And you are never done developing them.
My experience leads me to this list of 10 business leadership competencies that most successful leaders all share. They rank as the most significant to success as a leader in my perspective.
Related: The Zen of Abraham Lincolns Leadersip Lessons
If you want to be a better leader, work on continuously developing this list of leadership competencies:
inspire and motivate
To inspire and motivate.

Inspire and motivate

No matter how good you are, you will only be as successful as your team. So … getting the most from each team member is critical. We call this being a multiplier leader. Multiplier leaders know the importance of bringing out the smarts and capabilities in everyone around them.



Balancing listening

Part of the balancing is going beyond hearing to develop your full sense of listening. This includes watching body language and observing emotions. If you don’t listen in this way you’ll miss plenty of opportunities to learn and connect to others. 
Another part of the balancing is knowing how to exhibit strategic silence, i.e. knowing when to stay quiet. Great leaders understand the impact of words that can hurt, anger, or create fear. They know that when they say too much, others stop speaking and creativity and inclusion are a lost cause.


Foster teamwork

Peter Drucker made an interesting point when he said that leaders don’t train themselves not to say “I.” He’s implying that leaders innately work with others and let the team get the credit. They don’t force themselves to say “we.” “We” is natural for them, and it’s the way they’ve always thought.
It can be negative for an organization to have an “employee of the month” or a “who gets credit for what” attitude. You work as a team when you don’t care who gets the credit.
So the next time you see someone with a resume that states, “I accomplished x” or “I did x,” it should send up a few warning signals.



It’s important to know it is OK to ask for help, advice and constructive criticism. There are very few places where a lone wolf leader can be effective. Decisions are complex, and it takes a village of smart people to help make them. Leaders who aren’t inclusive may find that their organizations lack creativity.


No fear of daring choices.

There’s never one formula to achieve something. Don’t be afraid to take a leap; even if the outcome is not ideal, it provides you with the opportunity to learn the next time around. Step out of rigid mindsets and explore new ideas outside your comfort zone.


Leadership competencies … bBoost team self-esteem

We have written on employee attitude on several occasions. Employee attitude is so critical that it can’t be overemphasized. It trickles down from employers. Your business can never be what it can be if you don’t focus on employee happiness.
No matter, you’ll have dozens of people criticize you. Customers, current and former employees (whether you know it or not), and family and friends may give you constructive criticism. It can be stressful to hear or read, and it can be easy to pass on criticism to employees. But it doesn’t help. As a leader, you should ensure employees have high self-esteem in their job.
Leaders should make employees feel good about themselves. Constantly criticizing and pointing out the flaws in an employee is a sure fire way to decrease morale and performance.


 Leadership competencies … maintain work- life balance

While completing certain tasks and achieving success is the ultimate goal, it’s important to have a work life balance so you don’t burn yourself out. Lots of leaders espouse this balance, but only a rare few actually walk the talk. Great leaders can’t say this and then work 60 or more hours per week (or more!).


continuous learning
Always employ continuous learning.

Continuous learning 

If you’re not developing yourself, you’re coasting. If you’re coasting, it means you’re going downhill. Don’t get comfortable. Continue to learn and develop. Continuously. Those around you will follow your lead.




Lead with questions, not directions

Rarely tell staff what to do. While that may seem the easiest way, it’s more beneficial to help by allowing them to figure things out for themselves. The real learning is created within the team by ensuring that we’re asking the right questions.



Many leaders are intolerant of others who might do things differently or at a pace the leader finds unacceptable. Action oriented leaders may have a tendency to jump to conclusions before things are thought through. The lack of patience can manifest itself as anger or decisions that aren’t fully thought through. Be patient and reflective and always set aside thinking time. It is imperative for success.


The bottom line


A simple reminder … business leadership competencies, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it … it takes lots of consistent practice.  You need to dive into the pool as soon as possible.



Customer engagement
Customer engagement improvements are worth the effort.


Need some help in capturing more improvements for your staff’s leadership, teamwork and collaboration? Creative ideas in running or facilitating a team or leadership workshop?
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More leadership material from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
Build an Effective Team by Being a Talent Hound
Success Enablers of Highly Creative Leaders
Secrets to Becoming a Remarkably Mindful Leader
Leadership Characteristics That Improve Influence
Mike Schoultz is a digital marketing and customer service expert. With 48 years of business experience, he consults on and writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+FacebookTwitter, Digital Spark Marketing, and LinkedIn.
10 Leadership Competencies You Should Not Live Without