Leadership skills can help you in all aspects of your career, from applying for jobs to seeking career advancement. One of many soft skills that employers value, leadership skills often incorporate several different personality traits and communication abilities that are useful for anyone to learn and practice over time.
Knowing the definitions of leadership skills and seeing relevant examples can be especially helpful when you’re writing your resume. If you’re applying for jobs that require you to take initiative and be a leader—whether as a manager or among your peers—you should list leadership skills on your resume. Read more about incorporating them into your resume below. Also, make sure to check out our Key Soft Skills for Resumes...
What Are Leadership Skills?
Leadership skills are abilities that help you guide your team to meeting individual, group, department, and organizational goals. They are considered a type of soft skill because they’re usually not easily learned or quantified.
Some examples of leadership skills in action include:
Prospective employers need to know that you’re the applicant who can pull all of this off. And that’s a lot to concisely convey in writing, making it one of the trickier aspects of putting together a list of skills for resumes.
7 Effective Leadership Skills: List & Examples
Offering some initial insight into your leadership abilities is a crucial element of writing a compelling cover letter, which should briefly explain why your leadership expertise make you the perfect candidate. Follow up by including a list of good leadership skills on your resume, and be prepared to discuss them in depth during each phone screening and interview.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common leadership skills employers look for:
Strong leadership starts with the ability to communicate clearly in both conversation and writing – in a variety of circumstances. It’s up to you to make sure everyone on your team understands collective and individual objectives, what’s expected of them, how to get help when they need it, and more. Communication is also a two-way street, so you need to be an active and attentive listener, too.
Project managers must use communication to lead by ensuring that everyone working on a project understands what to do and when to do it, and they often have to coordinate between different teams or departments.
2. Problem Solving
Even with the best leaders, teams, ideas, plans, and intentions, things don’t always run smoothly or predictably. The ability to roll with the punches while remaining objective and positive is essential, as is a knack for charting the smartest new course forward.
This takes flexibility and a balance of practicality and creativity. As a leader, this doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with perfect solutions on your own – often, it means pulling everyone together and inspiring them to conquer unforeseen problems.
Effective leaders who see a project heading over budget have to identify ways to cut costs without falling short of expectations, perhaps in a brainstorming session with the team.
When you manage people and projects, you’re responsible for ensuring that everything gets done when and how it should be done. Everyone on the team needs to be kept productive with realistic workloads.
Smart delegating isn’t as simple as handing out assignments – it also requires assigning tasks based on each team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
A good leader creating an ad campaign provides direction while assigning concept, design, copy, and other responsibilities to the most suitable people – without micromanaging or taking on too much themselves.
4. Giving & Receiving Feedback
Speaking of strengths and weaknesses, leaders have to provide team members with positive feedback and constructive criticism. The former helps keep people productive, happy, and loyal – the latter helps them grow, perform better, and advance in their career.
Similarly, leaders should regularly seek feedback about what they’re doing right and what they could do differently. Asking for feedback shows respect and dedication to the team, but being genuinely receptive and implementing useful suggestions is what really matters.
Great leadership means saying things like, “You handled that upset customer very professionally, but next time, please bring the situation to a manager’s attention sooner.”
5. Conflict Resolution
Interpersonal conflict is an eventuality in any professional setting. A good leader knows that conflict undermines morale and productivity, that even minor disagreements or disputes must be addressed quickly and not allowed to fester, and that conflict shouldn’t be ended simply with a proclamation from above.
An effective conflict resolution process reaches a solution that involves compromise and leaves everyone involved feeling like they were heard, treated fairly, and shown respect.
If employees argue heatedly about how to best complete a task, have them take some cool-down time, then let them explain their points without interruption. Try to incorporate something from each suggested approach in the final instructions.
Being at the helm means constantly juggling all the pieces, prioritizing, monitoring progress, and reevaluating everything. In addition to supervising and managing employees, leaders must also be able to organize the following:
Well-developed organizational skills are a necessity for successful leadership—and for keeping a grip on your sanity.
Strong leaders use the right organizational tools to simplify their work (e.g., software that helps with time management, accounting, or tracking reports; cloud solutions for communication across multiple locations; apps for project management or comparing vendor prices).
A gift for motivating people is one key difference between merely managing and truly leading. Strong leadership is about much more than just telling everyone what to do. It’s about presenting them with a vision and inspiring them to want to achieve it with you.
To accomplish this, you must make all team members feel valued. They need to see that the organization’s success is also their own, and to feel like they’re experiencing personal and professional growth in the course of their work.
Building a respectful company culture that promotes work-life balance, providing staff with professional development opportunities, and offering incentives like bonuses or profit sharing are powerful ways to drive productivity and inspire great efforts.
Tips for Showcasing Your Leadership Skills
1. Talk about them in your cover letter
Spend a little time looking over examples of strong cover letters, and you’ll see they outline some relevant personal details, experience, and skills that make the applicant an ideal fit for the job. When applying for any sort of executive, management, or another supervisory role, address your leadership experience and qualities concisely in the cover letter.
This may be your only chance to convince the employer that you understand what it takes to be a successful leader and that you’ve filled that role in the past. That may mean in a previous or current position, in a volunteer capacity, in a school or sports organization, or elsewhere.
Any opportunity to highlight proven leadership abilities – especially recent and relevant experience – is worth briefly discussing in a cover letter.
2. Prove you’re a strong leader in your professional experience
While listing abilities like “Exceptional problem solver,” “Good at delegating,” and “Highly organized” in your resume skills section is good, it won’t be enough to sell a hiring manager on your leadership skills.
Think of the old cliché about showing versus telling. It’s easy but fairly meaningless to rattle off a list of skills, claiming you possess them. It’s much more valuable to back up these claims with achievement-oriented bullet points describing how you’ve leveraged those skills before.
Take a moment to think about how you’ve used your leadership skills to benefit your previous employers and then include those details in your work experience. For more details and examples, check out part two of our guide on showcasing skills for resumes.
3. Prepare to back up your claims in an interview
As you work on your resume, stick to singling out leadership skills you can back up in conversation. Some of the most common interview questions are about your strengths and weaknesses, your ambitions, and why you’re the perfect person for the job.
When you apply to a leadership role or make it a point to highlight leadership skills on your resume, count on being pressed for more details on the subject in your interviews.
Let Your Leadership Skills Shine
If you hope to land a job that puts you in charge of employees or a team in any capacity, convincingly highlighting effective leadership skills in your cover letter and resume will be essential to your success. And showing these coveted skills helps you stand out from the competition – even for an entry-level or other non-leadership position.
Want more information about the skills employers are looking for and how to include them in your resume? Click over to this page devoted to everything you need to know about resume skills.