Hone Your Skills

Professional Skills Every Leader Should Have

September 16, 2022
5 min read

There are countless skills you can learn to become a better leader and advance your career. But not all skills are created equal. Some skills are more essential than others and should be a top priority for any leader looking to improve their skill set.

Poised discusses all the most crucial professional skills to develop on your way to success below:

What Are the Most Important Professional Skills for Leaders?

Leaders must be able to delegate effectively. Trying to do everything yourself is a surefire recipe for burnout. Instead, learn to trust your team and delegate tasks accordingly. This will not only free up your time so you can focus on more big-picture things, but it will also help your team members feel empowered and motivated.

The ability to communicate effectively is paramount for any leader. A recent Grammarly and Harris Poll study estimated that poor communicationcosts US companies $1.2 trillion annually. If you can't communicate your vision and inspire others to follow you, then you'll have a hard time being an effective leader.

Likewise, being able to listen carefully and empathize with others is crucial. Leaders need to be able to see both sides of every issue and understand where their team is coming from.

Being able to make tough decisions is another essential skill for leaders. Leaders are often put in positions where they have to make difficult choices that could have a significant impact on their team. You must be able to weigh all the options and decide based on what's best for the team, not just what's best for you.

Further, leaders must continuously learn and grow. The world is constantly changing and evolving, and it's essential to adapt and change with it. Leaders who are stuck in their ways and refuse to learn new things will quickly become obsolete. 

Let's explore these professional skills in more detail and cover a few others while we're at it:


Delegation is one of the most important time management skills a leader can have. It allows you to focus on the big picture and hand off tasks to competent team members. But delegation is also one of the most challenging skills to master.

Here are some tips to help you delegate effectively:

  1. Define the task clearly. Before delegating a task, take the time to sit down with the team member and explain what needs to be done. Be clear about deadlines, expectations, and desired outcomes.
  2. Delegate to the right person. Make sure you delegate the task to someone with the skills and knowledge to complete it successfully.
  3. Follow up and give feedback. Once the task is completed, take the time to review it with the team member. Provide feedback and help them learn from their mistakes.


As a leader, it’s essential to encourage creativity in your team. After all, creative thinking is what leads to innovation and change.

Fostering creativity can be tricky, but many leaders find it helpful to:

  • Encourage brainstorming: Create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas, no matter how “out there” they may seem.
  • Welcome new perspectives: When team members offer new perspectives, listen with an open mind. They may have ideas that you haven’t considered.
  • Encourage risk-taking: Encourage team members to take risks and experiment with new ideas. Not every idea will be a winner, but it’s essential to create an environment where failure is seen as an opportunity to learn.


As a leader, you’ll face many challenges, both big and small. And how you handle these challenges will set the tone for your team. That’s why problem-solving is such an essential professional skill for leaders.

When confronted with a problem, take a step back and assess the situation. What are the goals? What are the potential solutions? What are the risks and benefits of each solution? Once you’ve considered all the options, make a decision and stick with it.

Of course, problem-solving isn’t always easy. But by taking a thoughtful and rational approach, you can set yourself up for success.

Consider these tried-and-true tips for developing your problem-solving skills as a leader:

  • Start with the end in mind.
  • Define the problem carefully.
  • Gather information and data.
  • Brainstorm potential solutions.
  • Evaluate the options and make a decision.
  • Follow up and give feedback.
  • Practice, practice, practice!


Effective communication is essential for building relationships, sharing information, and making decisions. There are several ways to communicate, from writing emails and memos to giving presentations and speeches.

While each type of communication has its unique set of rules and guidelines, all leaders can benefit from following these four principles:

  1. Be clear and concise. When communicating with your team, make sure you are clear about what you want to say. Be direct and to the point.
  2. Listen more than you talk. It’s essential to listen to your team members and understand their perspectives. Only then can you make informed decisions.
  3. Be open to feedback. Feedback is crucial for continuous learning and improvement. When giving and receiving feedback, always maintain a positive attitude.
  4. Respect different communication styles. Not everyone communicates in the same way. Some people are more direct, while others are more indirect. Respect these differences and adjust your communication style accordingly.

While there are other strategies to consider, following these tips will help you develop your people skills and become a more effective leader.

Active Listening

Active listening is a professional skill that all leaders should master. It involves taking the time to really listen to what others are saying and then responding in a way that shows you understand.

There are many benefits of active listening, including improved communication, stronger relationships, and better team collaboration. But how do you become an active listener?

Start by paying attention. When someone is speaking, give them your undivided attention. Turn off distractions and really listen to what they’re saying. Also, be intentional about asking questions. If you don't fully understand, ask questions that will clarify the person's message. This shows that you’re interested in what they’re saying and that you want to understand.

Repeating back what you just heard is another effective form of active listening. This is an excellent way to ensure you understand and that the other person feels heard. And remember to be patient. Active listening takes time and patience, but the effort is worth it.


Self-development is a lifelong process that helps you become the best version of yourself. This process is essential for continuously improving your leadership skills and self-confidence.

There are many different ways to develop yourself professionally. You can attend workshops and seminars, read books and articles, or listen to podcasts and TED Talks. You can shadow other leaders or mentors or participate in coaching and mentorship programs.

No matter which approach you take, the goal should be to continuously learn and grow. By investing in your personal development, you’ll sharpen specific skills, become a more effective leader, and set yourself up for success.

Team Development

Team development is also a process, and it helps groups of people work together more effectively. It involves creating a shared vision, setting goals, and developing teamwork skills.

As a leader, team development is essential for building an effective and cohesive team. By taking the time to develop your team, you’ll foster trust and respect, improve communication, and increase collaboration among coworkers. When your team is strong, you’ll be able to accomplish more and achieve tremendous success.

There are many different approaches to team development, but one of the most effective is action learning. This approach combines learning with doing, and it’s an excellent way to develop teamwork skills.

If you want to build a solid and effective team, focus on team development. By investing in your team, you’ll reap the rewards of a more cohesive and productive work environment.

Thinking Outside the Box

Leaders are often required to think outside the box to find solutions to complex problems. This means thinking creatively and critically to come up with innovative solutions.

Critical thinking is an essential thinking skill for leaders. It allows them to assess a situation and identify potential problems or opportunities. By thinking critically, leaders can make better decisions and avoid making mistakes.

Adaptability is another important management skill for leaders. In today’s ever-changing world, leaders need to be able to adapt to new situations quickly. They need to be able to think on their feet and make decisions at a moment's notice.

Here are a few fundamental principles to keep in mind as you seek to improve your critical thinking skills:

  • Question everything: When encountering a new problem, take a step back and question everything. What are the facts? What are the assumptions? What are the possible solutions?
  • Be open-minded: Don’t let your personal biases get in the way of thinking critically about a problem. Be open to new ideas and new solutions.
  • Challenge assumptions: When you’re thinking about a problem, challenge your assumptions. Are you thinking about the problem in the right way? Are there other ways to look at it?
  • Be persistent: Don’t give up when you encounter a difficult problem. Keep thinking and questioning until you find a solution.
  • Practice: The more you practice thinking critically, the better you’ll become at it. So keep thinking, questioning, and challenging yourself often.


Civic-mindedness is the belief that one has a responsibility to participate in the civic life of one's community. It's a desire to make a difference and contribute to the common good.

Civic-mindedness is an essential quality for leaders. You have a responsibility to participate in the civic life of your community and do what you can to make a difference. Developing your professional and interpersonal skills will equip you to do more for your neighborhood and beyond, but remember that it's a mindset. Becoming civic-minded can positively influence your self-motivation, self-development, and career.

Companies that prioritize social responsibility see the tangible benefits

  • 70% of job hunters look for companies that support charitable causes and give back to the community and world at large
  • 25% of consumers refuse to purchase from companies that appear to engage in suspicious business practices
  • Socially-minded companies attract more investors, especially millennials 

Accepting Feedback

Being a leader doesn't mean you're perfect. In fact, leaders should be open to feedback and willing to change. Accepting feedback can be difficult, but it's essential to becoming a better leader.

When you receive feedback, try to see it as an opportunity to improve. Be humble and receptive to what others have to say. Don't get defensive or take it personally. Instead, use the feedback to reflect on your own behavior and make changes where needed.

Becoming more effective as a leader requires a willingness to grow and change. So don't be afraid to accept feedback and use it to your advantage. Embrace it as a chance to become even better at what you do!


Integrity is a professional skill that distinguishes great leaders from average leaders. It's the ability to be honest, ethical, and consistent in your words and actions.

By showing integrity, your team (and community) will see you as trustworthy and reliable. People will know they can count on you to do what you say you'll do. Leading with integrity means that you're ethical. You make decisions based on what is right, not what is easy or convenient.

How Can Poised Help You Build Professional Skills?

Poised is a communication tool that can help you significantly improve as a leader. It centers around communication, which overlaps with several other professional skills.

How Poised Helps With Communication Skills

Building rapport is essential to success as a leader. It enables you to better understand your followers, who are more likely to trust and respect you. This mutual understanding is the foundation of a strong relationship between leaders and followers.

Poised can help you build rapport by providing you with extensive feedback on your communication. It analyzes the way you speak and offers suggestions on how to improve.

How Poised Helps With Team Development

Part of being an effective leader is knowing how to develop a strong team. This includes assembling the right team, delegating tasks, and fostering a positive team environment.

Poised allows you to assess your team members' communication skills. This information can help determine which tasks to delegate to each team member. Our software provides feedback on your own communication with your team. This can help you identify areas where you can improve to foster a more positive team environment.

How Poised Helps With Active Listening

Active listening is a key professional skill for leaders. It involves paying attention to both the words and the nonverbal cues of the person you are communicating with. This can help you better understand their needs and respond accordingly.

Poised provides feedback on your active listening skills. It analyzes the way you listen and offers suggestions on how to improve. This can help you better understand your followers and build stronger relationships with them.


A leader is only as strong as their weakest skill. To become the best senior manager possible, you must learn to delegate, communicate, make decisions, and adapt effectively. And you must commit to adding a range of other professional skills to your arsenal.

That way, you can confidently take on any challenge that comes your way, lead your team to success, and position yourself for a bright future.


Grammarly and Harris Poll Research Estimates U.S. Businesses Lose $1.2 Trillion Annually To Poor Communication | Business Wire

How To Solve a Problem Like a Leader | Forbes

3 Ways To Think Outside the Box More Often | Inc

15 Eye-Opening Corporate Social Responsibility Statistics | Harvard Business School Online

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