5 min read

What Are The 7 Core Skills Of A Leader? (+ Examples)

What Are The 7 Core Skills Of A Leader? (+ Examples)

 The requirements of a leader are evolving. What once was the norm for leaders is no longer what’s needed to retain and motivate employees. Today, employees expect to work for leaders who are authentic, empathetic to their needs, flexible, and bring out the best in them.

Supporting this notion, new research from Gartner uncovered that 90% of HR leaders believe that for a leader to succeed today, they must gain the skills needed to focus on the human aspects of leadership. Yet, in another survey of employees, only 29% of those surveyed said their direct leader is human-centric.

Today, the seven core skills of a leader are ones that help them exhibit human leadership. These leadership skills allow one to bring people together, lead authentically, create safe spaces, make sound decisions, shift quickly while keeping everyone engaged, and take a genuine interest and care for their people.

Join the free 30-Day Leadership Challenge and become a better manager. >> 


What Are The 7 Core Skills of a Leader?

  1. Relationship Building
  2. Inspiring Communication
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Innovation, Change, and Agility
  5. Motivating Employees
  6. Developing and Coaching Others
  7. Collaboration and Teamwork

7 Core Skills of a Leader (1)


Relationship Building

While relationship building is the outcome, it is accomplished through leading with compassion, kindness, authenticity, and positivity. Those with the leadership qualities to form positive interpersonal relationships also tend to have high levels of emotional intelligence, that is, the skills and ability to be aware of and in control of one’s emotions and reactions, self-aware of their behaviors, and empathetic to those around them. Developing these soft skills serves any leader who is shifting to be a more human leader.


Relationship Building Example

An example of a business leader who excels at relationship building is Warren Buffett. Throughout his illustrious career, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway has curated enduring partnerships. Known for his approachable demeanor and genuine interest in people, Buffett has cultivated strong connections with his business associates, shareholders, and employees. 


Inspiring communication

Leaders must have strong communication skills to succinctly and clearly communicate their thoughts, emotions, ideas, directions, and vision. Through inspiring and understandable communication, leaders are able to motivate those around them to take action and make the collective goal a reality.

From her own experience, Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, agrees that leaders must have exceptional communication skills. She said, “If you cannot simplify a message and communicate it compellingly, believe me, you cannot get the masses to follow you.”

“If you cannot simplify a message and communicate it compellingly, believe me, you cannot get the masses to follow you. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo Quote”  (1)


Inspiring Communication Example

A leader known for their ability to simplify their message in a way that ignited passion and enthusiasm from their team and followers is Steve Jobs. He had an extraordinary ability to articulate his compelling vision, which made almost everyone want to achieve it. His iconic product launches at Apple were a masterclass on effective communication. His captivating communication style, combined with his showmanship, inspired not only employees but also customers, investors, and the tech community, contributing significantly to Apple's success.


Critical Thinking

While not necessarily a human skill, leaders must develop their critical thinking skills to succeed today. When those in charge have the leadership trait to quickly and effectively analyze information and make a judgment to take advantage of opportunities or course corrections when challenges arise, it builds employee confidence and trust. Witnessing their leader consider multiple perspectives and potential outcomes before jumping to a conclusion reassures them their leader is in control and their decisions will be sound.


Critical Thinking Example

Jeff Bezos, founder and former CEO of Amazon, is a pillar of critical thinking. His ability to foresee the potential of e-commerce and transform it into a global powerhouse is a reflection of his analytical mind. Throughout his company's growth, he applied rigorous analysis to identify market trends, assess risks, and make strategic decisions that propelled Amazon forward. This can be highlighted in the introduction of Amazon Prime and the Kindle, which has shaped the e-commerce landscape.


Innovation, Change, and Agility

Change is inevitable and should be expected. That’s why leaders need the skills and mindset to frame their response to different situations and circumstances, whether positive or negative, demonstrating resilience and emotional intelligence to those around them. They must also be open to new ideas, no matter where they come from, to innovate and optimize how things are done, and be able to coach their team members through the change.


Innovation, Change, and Agility Example

Indra Nooyi, who was noted earlier for her insights on clear communication, is also a notable business leader for her brilliance for innovation and change while the CEO of PepsiCo. During her time, she transformed the company's product portfolio to meet changing customer preferences towards healthy options. In addition, she spearheaded sustainability initiatives, embraced digital transformation, and acquired Quaker Oats and Tropicana, expanding PepsiCo's reach into new markets.


Motivating Employees

Motivation is the driving force behind a team’s and an individual’s productivity, engagement, and, ultimately, success. Motivated individuals are more likely to go above and beyond, have higher levels of job satisfaction, and stay committed to their goals. However, for this to happen, they must have the leadership characteristics to create a positive team environment, communicate a vision to foster a sense of purpose, bring the team together, and keep up morale when faced with challenges.


Motivating Employees Example

Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, is renowned for his ability to motivate employees. Deploying a leadership style characterized by his charismatic and inspirational approach, he utilized storytelling and sharing personal experiences to communicate a compelling vision employees wanted to be a part of. His belief in empowering individuals and promoting a collaborative work environment has contributed to Alibaba's success as a global e-commerce giant.


Developing and Coaching Others

Sadly, only 32% of employees said their direct leader truly cares about their growth, development, and career progression. Employees want to work for a leader who gives them constructive feedback, is willing to have career conversations, takes the time to meet with them to set their professional goals, and follows through with growth opportunities. Leaders who have the skills to excel in developing and coaching their employees not only meet the expectations of their people but also position themselves and their teams for long-term success.

32% of employees said their direct leader truly cares about their career progression. (1)


Developing and Coaching Others Example

The CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, has demonstrated a strong commitment to fostering talent at GM by implementing a variety of development opportunities for employees. Under her leadership, GM has implemented a culture of continuous learning by investing in training and leading by example by providing regular feedback, coaching, and mentoring. By prioritizing the professional development of her team, she has not only enhanced individual capabilities but has also contributed to the overall success and innovation of General Motors in the highly competitive automotive industry.


Collaboration and Teamwork

Work shouldn’t be about competition and conflict; it should be about coming together as a team, department, and organization to achieve a common goal, and it’s up to leaders to lead by example. No one can succeed in isolation, given the interconnected and complex nature of business. That’s why leaders must have the skills to act collaboratively and inspire teamwork. They need to foster an environment where everyone works together, harnessing the collective intelligence and diverse strengths of others to drive problem-solving, productivity, alignment, and goal achievement.


Collaboration and Teamwork Example

Widely recognized for his brilliance in fostering teamwork, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has transformed the culture into one that values collaboration and open communication. He encourages cross-functional collaboration, where employees are empowered to explore new ideas with other departments. In addition, Nadella's focus on inclusivity and diversity has ensured that Microsoft's teams are composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, leading to innovations, better decisions, and overall results. 


Next Steps: Keep Up on the 7 Core Skills of a Leader

The world is changing, and so are the skills needed to be a good leader. This is why, to be successful, leaders must keep on learning and obtaining the competencies from this list of best leadership skills, which is a great place to start.

To help you on your leadership journey, we've compiled a free 30-day leadership challenge filled with tips, tricks, templates, and resources to help you gain the 7 core skills of a leader and more. It's a self-paced workbook where, each day, you will gain an actionable insight and a task to complete.

Join the Free 30-Day Leadership Challenge

[Infographic] Top 10 Leadership Skills for Managers

5 min read

[Infographic] Top 10 Leadership Skills for Managers

When you step into a people leadership role, one of your first thoughts is: what do I need to be a great manager? While you’ll need to tap into many...

Read More
Leadership Skills in The Workplace: 4 Examples To Follow

4 min read

Leadership Skills in The Workplace: 4 Examples To Follow

If you’ve been in the workforce long enough, you have likely worked with some really great leaders. They may have been your boss or someone in the...

Read More
Mastering Leadership Skills: Definition, Examples, and Resources

12 min read

Mastering Leadership Skills: Definition, Examples, and Resources

Whether you’re early in your career or have many years of experience, mastering leadership skills is not just a desirable trait; it’s necessary for...

Read More