Leading with Impact: 2024’s Top Leadership Competencies

February 12, 2024 | New Workplace Leadership | 6 min read

Strong and competent leaders are more important today than they’ve ever been. With advancements in AI, cybersecurity and the ongoing skills crisis, having leaders in the organization that understand and prioritize stewardship has become essential. These skills enable individuals to guide their teams, inspire high performance, and navigate through challenges to reach organizational goals. Exceptional leaders can articulate a clear vision and strategy which in turn, fosters an environment of trust and collaboration.

World Economic Forums’ 2023 Future of Jobs Report explained that employers estimate that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years. What does this mean? Organizations need great leaders at the helm to guide teams through this major dislocation and help them improve their skills for the continuously evolving workplace. Essentially, these are the top leadership competencies that will keep your organization competitive and ultimately give you a leg up in the workplace today, tomorrow and in the next five years.

1. Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a crucial skill for leaders, as it involves creative scenario and sensitivity analysis, and well the ability to assess the long-term impact of decisions. This anticipatory and flexible way of thinking helps future-proof an organization by enabling leaders to spot opportunities and threats before they become imminent. Being a strategic thinker also improves decision-making capabilities, ensuring that choices are not made in isolation but are instead linked to the broader organizational goals.

Strategic thinking enhances risk management activities by helping leaders identify potential risks and formulate plans well in advance of a crisis situation. In addition to improving risk management, leaders who can develop and maintain a strategic vision over time can support effective resource allocation, anticipate potential changes and develop scenarios and responses, and flexibly adjust to different types of internal and external challenges.

For leaders to be successful, developing and flexing strategic thinking skills will enhance problem-solving abilities, boost capacity to manage change and encourage innovative thinking.

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2. Effective Communication

Leaders at all levels within an organization need to be proficient and nimble communicators, as their role requires them to inspire, empower, and motivate their teams. Effective communication allows leaders to transmit their ideas, align expectations, and facilitate mutual understanding. In addition, cultivating robust relationships is a pivotal element in fostering an environment of openness and promoting transparency.

For individual leaders, effective communication enhances their ability to articulate vision to both seniors and subordinates, delegate tasks, provide constructive feedback, manage change, and understand their employees' perspectives, needs, and concerns. At an organizational level, applying effective communication skills will support alignment of efforts towards common goals while inspiring positive change, and cultivate a culture of trust and mutual respect among team members. In essence, effective communication is not just about information transfer; it's about understanding, influencing, and connecting with people across the organization.

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3. Emotional Intelligence

Leaders possessing high emotional intelligence are adept at empathizing, building strong relationships, managing teams effectively, and dealing with workplace stress. They also excel in understanding and responding to their own and others' emotions, which enhances decision-making and conflict resolution. A Gallup survey found that employees with emotionally intelligent managers are 4x less likely to leave their jobs. Emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled at navigating change, managing conflict, and driving team performance, leading to better employee retention.

Being an emotionally intelligent leader in today’s workplace is fundamental to effective leadership – it enhances individual performance and directly contributes to organizational success.

Learn more about improving emotional intelligence

4. Problem Solving

Leaders across organizations are constantly faced with problems that could disrupt the priorities of their teams and organizations. Having strong individuals ready and willing to address problems is critical; the speed with which problems are acknowledged and solved can have a profound impact on a team’s ability to successfully function. Leaders adept at problem-solving can effectively navigate complex business challenges, support organizational focus and continued success. These skills interwoven with their strategic thinking, decision-making, and crisis management abilities, inspires confidence within their teams.

Leaders who have strong problem-solving capabilities provide valuable guidance, promote collaboration and facilitate development of innovative solutions. Leaders who support solution-oriented environments can increase job satisfaction, improve team cohesion, and enhance team performance.

5. Team Building

While building strength in all these individual competencies may lead to increased team collaboration and communication, leaders must find opportunities for teams to engage in exercises and activities to build cohesion and trust within teams. Leaders who excel in creating a positive environment for their teams can boost their own credibility, inspire their team members, manage conflicts more effectively, and accelerate their team’s performance to help achieving the organization's strategic goals. According to a recent report by Gusto, 37% of the employees surveyed revealed that they chose to remain in their current job due to the presence of an exceptional team. Positive team dynamics have a significant and real impact on employee retention and overall job satisfaction. Great leaders build great teams, and great teams build strong organizations.

Learn more about developing your team building skills.

6. Conflict Resolution

Conflict is an inevitable part of our lives, often arising from differences, both major and minor, as we interact with others who may have different opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds. Being able to resolve conflict is a crucial leadership skill with profound impacts on leaders, their teams, and ultimately to the wider organization. Leaders who can adeptly resolve conflicts can transform disputes into opportunities for growth. They navigate difficult conversations with tact, mediate disputes impartially, foster open communication, and encourage problem-solving attitudes.

Imagine there's a disagreement between two key stakeholders over the direction of a project. Both individuals believe their approach is best, causing tension and slowing progress on the project.

Leaders who are adept at conflict resolution can accurately assess the situation, and then determine the most effective way to intervene to constructively engage with stakeholders to reach a mutual understanding or compromise. By using conflict resolution skills like active listening, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving, leaders can facilitate a conversation that allows each party to express their viewpoints and feelings. This process can help find a solution that respects and considers differing viewpoints while maintaining progress towards a shard goal.

Simply put: a leader's competency in smoothly handling conflict is an invaluable asset that supports team productivity and unity and promotes mutual trust and respect.

Learn how Skillsoft Coaching can help build conflict resolution skills

7. Change Management

Change is an inevitable part of leading any organization. Effective change management enables leaders to execute transformational initiatives, foster a culture of adaptability, and empower their teams to accept change. In a working world being transformed daily by GenAI, the ability to navigate teams through change will be essential to providing an environment where teams feel safe, empowered, and encouraged to explore opportunities to change how they do their day-to-day jobs, and reimagine what could be possible. Adopting a calm and strategic approach to change management makes all the difference for teams, it can minimize resistance, facilitate smooth transitions and boost morale amin uncertainty. At the organizational level, such leaders are key in successfully implementing strategic changes, maintaining operational continuity during transitions, and enhancing organizational agility.

Want to learn more about the impact and opportunity of GenAI in workforce development?

A leader able to consistently demonstrate these traits can ignite passion and creativity in their teams and foster an environment that motivates and encourages each member to bring their best to the table. However, the impact is not just measured within that team. The ripple effect of this type of forward-thinking leadership permeates throughout the entire organization. It creates a culture where excellence is the norm, not the exception. Innovation is encouraged and celebrated, leading to new ideas and solutions that can push the organization to new heights.