Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Leader?

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Read almost any job description, and you will find references to leadership skills, whether the role has management responsibilities or not. But what does it take to be a leader, and how can you develop leadership skills?

The original theories of leadership centered on traits – things like intelligence, height, and charisma. At the time, researchers were studying people who were already in leadership roles to see what they had in common. Today, we think about leadership quite differently. In both research and the real world, we’ve seen that leadership ability is not just something people are born having; it’s more of a skill and a practice that anyone can learn.

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Behaviors of Leaders

There are a variety of behaviors that are associated with leaders in the world of work. Some of the most commonly cited skills include:

  • Have and share a vision: Effective leaders possess a clear vision for the future, and they share this vision in ways that motivate and energize their team. Sharing this vision for the future aligns both management and employees and creates a sense of direction and oneness.
  • Pursue excellence: Leaders who pursue excellence set high standards for themselves and their teams. They encourage innovation and efficiency, and they work to create an environment that possesses the freedom to meet these standards.
  • Communicate effectively: Communication is at the heart of good leadership. Transparent communication builds trust and creates a collaborative work environment.
  • Be trustworthy: Trustworthy leaders follow through on commitments, admit mistakes, prioritize values, and act with integrity. Building trust helps leaders establish strong relationships with their team members.
  • Build confidence in your employees: Effective leaders recognize the value of their employees and want their employees to succeed. They provide opportunities for their employees to learn through feedback and by assigning tasks that fit the employee’s strengths and help them grow.
  • Be enthusiastic: Enthusiasm is contagious. Enthusiastic leaders bring passion to their roles, and this enthusiasm spreads across the team. Even when faced with challenges, enthusiastic leaders help their teams overcome the challenge with resilience.
  • Serve others: Servant leadership is powerful. When leaders place others’ well-being at the forefront, they create a sense of unity and purpose.


You might read this list and think that doesn’t sound so hard, but the truth is that most leaders, especially people who are new to the role, struggle to find ways to do all of these things effectively. It takes practice and a commitment to working hard on these skills to become excellent at all of them.

How to Develop Leadership Skills

Learning leadership skills is similar to learning any other new ability, such as a language, a musical instrument, or a sport. It involves three different elements:

  1. Classroom or Formal Learning: When you first set out to learn something new, the first place you might turn is to a class or a book. This is a great way to learn the fundamentals and the theories. But no matter how much time you spend in the classroom, you won’t be able to master a new skill through theory alone.
  2. Observation or Social Learning: Throughout our careers, we’ve had a variety of managers. One of the best ways to learn how to be a leader is by observing others. That doesn’t mean you should try to copy exactly what another person is doing, but by taking a look at what works and what doesn’t and matching what you learned in the classroom with what you see in the real world, you can start to see how theory and practice fit together.
  3. Practice: We learn the most when we do something ourselves. When you take on a leadership role, such as managing a project or leading a team, and you begin to practice what you have learned, you will see where things go well and where you still have room to grow.


Becoming a leader is a process, not an event. If you get a promotion into a management role tomorrow, you won’t go to bed with one set of skills and wake up with a new set just because you have a new title. But if you approach the process with a growth mindset, are willing to seek out feedback, and are committed to the learning process, then you have what it takes to be a leader!

Start today and expand your leadership skills with Leadership 101. Perfect for both new and experienced leaders, Leadership 101 equips managers with the necessary tools and techniques to enhance and fine-tune their skills. By leveraging this valuable resource, your organization can bolster employee and client retention, enhance decision-making processes, and elevate overall performance.

Headshot of Katy Tynan
Katy Tynan

Katy Tynan is an expert in leadership and organizational development. She is the author of Survive Your Promotion!, and her most recent book is How Did I Not See This Coming?: The New Manager’s Guide to Avoiding Total Disaster (ATD Press, November 2017). Tynan is the founder of Liteskip Consulting Group.

Connect with Katy on LinkedIn.

Recommended Webinar
Leadership 101: What Successful Leaders Do—and How They Do It

Deep dive into how to develop both aspiring and seasoned leaders by learning the fundamental skills and qualities of successful leaders.

Leadership 101: What Successful Leaders Do—and How They Do It
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