The axiom that “leaders are born, not made” is an outdated concept in the modern workplace. Through a combination of education, practice, and persistence, every professional has the potential to unlock the top five leadership skills that make a great leader and take their careers to new heights. 

Leadership vs. Management

Before you can master your leadership skills, it’s important to distinguish leadership from management. The latter has its purpose and is essential to a functioning workplace. Leadership, however, is separate from authority. It’s about more than giving direction and handing down discipline. If you aspire to become a manager or executive, you’ll want to begin with effective, foundational leadership skills. Even if you don’t start out as a supervisor of people, knowing how to lead will make your path to success much more fulfilling.

What Are the Top Five Skills Necessary for Effective Leadership?

You can be a leader at every stage of your career, and to be truly effective, you will need to master five essential skills. Read more about each skill, then follow the tips below to hone them.

1. Decisiveness

Leaders must make  difficult decisions — often quickly — and justify their choices to colleagues and employees. Some decisions will be of minor consequence, while many leaders are “born” in periods of great adversity or stress — they rise to the occasion and make the quick decisions that inspire confidence.

2. Critical thinking

Like other leadership skills, your ability to think through complex problems and scenarios can be sharpened through your education. The more you learn, the more you are able to analyze and posit questions, answers, and solutions. Critical thinking enhances your ability to be more decisive and to that end, make better choices for employees and your organization.

3. Motivation

One trait great leaders all have in common is their ability to inspire and influence others, and if you are managing people, you must learn what motivates them. 

4. Integrity

Perhaps now more than ever, honesty and ethics matter in the workplace. To be a leader, you must possess a level of integrity that earns you the respect of those working for you and working above you. Among other things, integrity helps you build credibility with those in your orbit, and that is essential to your overall success.

5. Team building

Like motivation, your team building skills will go a long way toward creating unification and harmony in the workplace. As a leader, you will need to be collaborative, and if you already know what it takes to motivate your team, you will have an easier time bringing them together to accomplish projects large and small.

How to Master the Five Essential Leadership Skills 

1. Be a Decisive Leader

  • Align your vision and values with those of the organization. Knowing what’s best for your company and your employees will make it easier for you when decision-time arrives. 
  • Come prepared. This complements the previous point. If you have all the facts at your disposal and, notably, understand the consequences of the options at-hand, it will be much easier for you to come to the right decision.
  • Take initiative. When people are looking around for solutions, it’s time to step up. You don’t even have to be a manager of people to take initiative and prove to those around you that your choice is the best one for the organization.  
  • Be goal-specific. There is a goal at the end of every decision path, so if you set your goals in advance and stick to them, you’re more likely to make the right choice.

2. Enhance Your Critical Thinking Skills

  • Do your research. If you’re going to make a decision or even offer an opinion on a topic, you need to know what you’re talking about.
  • Be an active listener. As a leader, you must maintain an open-door policy with those around you. Employees will come to you with feedback, ideas, and, yes, complaints — all of which you should listen to and factor into your decision-making.
  • Be curious. Just because people expect leaders to have the answers doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to ask questions. Be curious about everything in your world, so you can see what’s on the horizon, and identify things that can have a positive impact on your organization’s future. 

3. Be a Motivational Leader

  • Reward positive outcomes. If those around you can see a payoff at the end of a big project, they are more likely to make a greater effort. You may also consider some form of multi-tiered rewards system that openly celebrates success. 
  • Give feedback. Honest and helpful feedback can be transformative to someone at any age or experience level. 
  • Be transparent about career development. Let those you are leading know that better things are in-store for them, even if it means losing them to a promotion or a competitor. 

4. Lead with Integrity

  • Lead by example. You can set the tone for your organization by showing others what it means to approach your work ethically and with sincerity.
  • Avoid cultivating negativity. Shutting down the gossip mill and managing conflict responsibly can help you maintain harmony in the workplace. Others around you will recognize your efforts and want to follow in your footsteps.
  • Be consistent. Predictability can be a good thing when you’re making the right choices for employees, departments, or the organization as a whole. Make sure you stay true to the policies you’ve put in place.
  • Hold yourself accountable. Mistakes will happen. Leaders will be second-guessed. But if you hold yourself to the same standard — or even a higher standard — than others, you will continue to earn the trust of those around you.

5. Be a Collaborative Leader

  • Welcome ideas from everyone. When people are involved, they feel like part of the team. You should encourage this behavior, and work to gain input from everyone on the team, no matter where they fall on the organizational chart.
  • Identify ways to bring people together out of the office. Team building doesn’t have to happen at work. You should look for opportunities to foster the kind of positive, collaborative culture you want by organizing enjoyable out-of-office activities.
  • Don’t forget those you don’t see. Today’s workplace is face-to-face and virtual, and employees who are in the office will have to collaborate with those working remotely. “Out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t apply here, and you will need to apply your collaborative approach to involve everyone.  

Where Can I Put My Leadership Skills to Work?

Leaders are needed at every level of every organization, and there will always be a demand for effective leadership skills. 

Let’s assume that you want to put your leadership skills to work in a managerial position. Right now, those skills would be in-demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that analyzes and reports employment data nationwide, about 906,800 new management jobs will become available through the end of the decade – a 9% increase. Managers, the agency reports, earn the highest median annual wage —$102,450 in May 2021 — among all major occupational groups.

Of course, the pinnacle of achievement for aspiring leaders is the C-suite. Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Operating Officers (COOs), Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), and others are tasked with leading specific divisions of a company, and these positions require a combination of education, hard skills, and soft skills.

How Do I Develop Effective Leadership Skills?

Education is always the key to career enhancement, and developing your own skills and finding your leadership style is something that can be achieved with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Leadership

A bachelor’s in business leadership will immerse you in the theory and practice of leadership, with a curriculum that will strengthen your understanding of organizational psychology, conflict management, organizational behavior, strategic management, and other topics essential to your professional development.

When you complete your business leadership program at UAGC, you will be able to:

  • Examine the influence of leadership, vision, and strategic planning in a variety of organizations and environments
  • Assess the process of leading others in environments increasingly characterized by change and complexity
  • Apply principles of human behavior and motivation to maximize the use of human resources
  • Analyze methods of organizational change and development
  • Evaluate the most recent tools and concepts emerging in management and leadership

Can I Earn My Business Leadership Degree Online?

Yes. If you are pursuing your education while balancing work and family, earning your BA in business leadership* online can give you the flexibility you need to manage your responsibilities.

Further, an online program can expose you to a larger network of diverse business minds, as the virtual classroom is made up of professionals from all walks of life. Having the perspective of working adults can only enhance your understanding of leadership concepts and help you perfect your skills, and you may even be able to find a mentor that can serve as a model throughout your career.

Ready to sharpen your leadership skills? Reach out to an advisor about your Bachelor of Arts in Business Leadership.


Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.
*Successful completion of the Bachelor of Arts in Business Leadership degree by itself does not provide licensure or certification in any state, regardless of concentration or specialization.

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