The Most Important Leadership Competencies

Are you an effective leader? These 4 traits say YES!

thought leadership Jan 08, 2024


The Most Important Leadership Competencies

I get asked this often in my coaching sessions - “do you think I’m a good leader?”.

As we look ahead to the future, reflecting on what we want to achieve this year, it's a great question to be asking ourselves SOOOO let's have a mini coaching session together right now!

Firstly, how would you define a “good leader?” Is a good leader someone who is well liked? Someone who achieves goals? Someone who is kind to others? What traits or skills do you look for in a "good" leader? (and is "good" the right word?)

I prefer the term “effective leader” over the term “good leader” because that implies the leader is responsible for action and achievement. As a leadership-obsessed professional, I know the traits and similarities that I’ve seen myself in successful, effective leaders that I’ve coached, leaders that I’ve worked for, leaders I’ve worked with, and leaders that I’ve learnt from.

Whether you’re leading a small team, a large corporation, or just stepping into a leadership role, understanding the key competencies of effective leadership is essential. 


Competency 01: Purpose: Your Leadership Compass

What it means: Purpose is the cornerstone of leadership. It's about knowing where you're going, why you're going there, and being able to inspire others to follow. A leader with a clear purpose sets the direction for the team and drives collective efforts towards a common goal. Your purpose has a ripple effect across your entire world, because when you know what you want and need to do, you're able to bring others on board with the direction and show them where to go. You're also able to make clear decisions in line with your purpose, and deliver actions that make that purpose a reality.

How to develop it: Start by defining your personal and organisational goals. Having a purpose ensures that you know what motivates you, why you get out of bed in the morning excited to get stuck in to the day, your to-do list, see your team and make things happen.

Ask yourself, "What impact do I want to make?" 

When you think about leaders that you admire: how would you define their purpose, and how do they articulate that to those around them?


Competency 02: Self-Awareness + EQ: Your Leadership Mirror

What it means: Self-awareness in leadership is about understanding your impact on others. It's recognising your strengths and weaknesses and knowing how your actions and decisions influence the team. Research shows that leaders who are self-aware are more effective and better at managing relationships. This is the most important success factor in leaders that I work with, I can tell very quickly if they are self aware and I observe a direct link in level of self awareness to level of success. What's fascinating about self awareness is that more people *think* they are self aware, but based on Tasha Eurich's research, only 10 - 15% of people are genuinely self aware. Being self aware means that you are able to monitor and control your internal mind and thoughts, and you also understand how others perceive you and your actions. I like to include Emotional Intelligence in with Self Awareness, because they are so closely linked - to be able to understand other's emotions, you must first understand your own.

How to develop it: It's easy to say, but hard to do - you must seek feedback and be open to criticism. You should also be journaling, to allow you time to reflect on your inner cognitive patterns and thoughts and emotions. 

Ask yourself, "Do I understand how others see me? Have I validated that?" 

Reflect on your emotions and how they influence your leadership. There's more on EQ over here.

When you think about leaders that you admire: how do you see them demonstrating self awareness?


Competency 03: Thinking: Your Leadership Mind

What it means: Elevated thinking skills are vital. This includes effective decision-making (in a timely manner too), problem-solving, and strategic planning. All of these cognitive skills help you to navigate any situation and are applicable to all leadership roles across all industries. 

How to develop it: Challenge yourself with new problems. Stay curious and open-minded. Engage with diverse perspectives and continually update your knowledge - and not to state the obvious (but I will) - LEARN. Learn as much as you can, all the time. Invest in yourself and your brain (I talk about this more over here). 

Ask yourself, "Where could I improve my thinking skills? (e.g. strategy, decision making, creativity, problem solving etc" . A good way to inspire your answer for this question is to reflect on decisions you've made recently and think about the information you used, the process you took, what you considered and how long you took to decide.

When you think about leaders that you admire: when have you seen a leader making a challenging decision and how did they do it?


Competency 04: Communication: Your Leadership Voice

What it means: Effective communication is more than just talking. It’s about conveying your ideas clearly, listening actively, and engaging in meaningful dialogues. Powerful leaders connect with people emotionally and intellectually, making their messages more impactful.

How to develop it: Practice active listening and be empathetic. Tailor your communication style to your audience. Be clear and concise in your messaging.

Ask yourself, "How do I tailor my communication to my audience?"

When you think about leaders that you admire: when do you see them delivering powerful, impactful communication? Why do you think it works?

Leadership is a journey of continuous growth and learning. By focusing on these key competencies - purpose, self-awareness, thinking, and communication - you can lead more effectively and inspire those around you.

Leadership is a choice, you don't have to be a leader, you don't have to be responsible for important goals and teams and other people's careers. You've chosen this, so how are you going to make sure you continue to evolve as a leader and human, and make an impact?




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