12 Key Skills That Good Leaders Have

feedbackTaking the step from either a highly technical role or from general management is one of the most challenging times in your career.  Working with people who are from professions like accountancy and medicine, I see many people who have a ton of potential but struggle the further they get on in their career.


Reflecting on what it takes to lead, I came up with the following list of 12 key skills that I believe are essential to success when leading.


Being A Great Listener


Communication is often used as a generic term when what people are actually looking for is people with good listening skills.  In my experience there is no shortage of people who communicate well verbally or in writing.  On the other hand there is often a dearth of people who are really effective listeners.


Being Able To Influence


Influencing is essentially about being able to affect events or people’s thinking in a way that can appear effortless.  However, don’t be fooled.  Those who influence well have clarity about what they want to achieve.  They also understand their audiences and their preferences and adapt.


Being Able To Present


This is absolutely vital and is often a huge challenge for people who have real expertise.  You might have great ideas and insights but you have to be able to get these across simply.


Being Able To Communicate


We spoke already about the importance of listening and presenting.  Being a leader exposes you to a whole host of communication situations from briefings to emails. Written communication skills matter.


Good All Round Business Skills


As a leader you have your areas of specialism.  This in itself is not enough.  It is vital that you have all round business skills.


People Skills


The best leaders just seem to have a knack of getting results through others.  Though often people skills, especially those from technical or professional backgrounds are often really lacking.


Relationship Building Skills


You cannot work in a vacuum.  You need the buy-in, support and help of others.  If you never work on building relationships, you are always going to struggle.  Trust is built through relationships.  Support is gained through relationships.


Business Partnering Skills


This is particular important for people who are in functional support roles like Finance, IT and Human Resources.  A lot of the transactional work has now been streamlined and leaders in these functions are now working as partners and advisors.


Project Skills


Nothing stands still in organisations for very long.  Most of the time there are multiple projects going on or being undertaken that need leadership.  While you don’t necessarily need to become an expert in project management, you definitely need to understand programme and project management principles.


Negotiation Skills


You have many stakeholders as a leader and none of them will simply do something or act in a specific way just because you are at a senior level.  Most things whether getting funding or trying to make a change requires negotiation.


Ability To Lead Change


As a leader a big part of your role should be moving the organisation forward and this generally means facilitating change.  Most know the mechanics of change management but the real skill is getting past resistance.


An Understanding Of Governance


This might not be the thing that is seen as exciting but as we have seen over the years most major failings in organisations are at least partly attributable to failings in governance.


The Bottom Line:  Being a successful leader is not about being good at one thing but being skilled in a whole host of areas.


Duncan Brodie helps accountants achieve more career success. He invites you to sign up for his free report, The 7 Biggest Barriers To A Successful Career In Accountancy

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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