8 Important Leadership Skills Every Manager Must Have

8 Important Leadership Skills Every Manager Must Have
JobStreet content teamupdated on 02 August, 2023

Work and life often involve collaboration among different kinds of people. Effective teamwork and cohesion can only be achieved through good leadership skills. A leader can manage a team and ensure that each individual contributes.

What are leadership skills?

Leadership skills are the abilities you need to manage, guide, or supervise people working toward a common goal. It involves overseeing processes and activities in the workplace, uniting individuals into a shared vision, and inspiring individuals to be the best version of themselves.

Importance of leadership skills

Leadership and management skills are essential in the workplace to ensure employees can work together as a team. Good leaders help smoothen workflow, increase productivity and efficiency, and create a work environment that brings out the best in employees.

⁠Leadership skills are also crucial in our personal lives, whether as parents, spouses, or community members. They can help us become well-rounded people who nurture and develop good relationships around us.


In this article, we will be discussing the qualities of a good leader, the different leadership styles, as well as the eight key leadership skills you need in your professional and personal life, namely:

  • Communication skills
  • ⁠Emotional intelligence
  • ⁠Decision making
  • Time management
  • Adaptability
  • Conflict resolution
  • Strategic thinking
  • Delegation

Understanding leadership

A man focused on learning new things

There are different types of leadership, each having its pros and cons. Different situations may require different leadership styles. Your personality and strengths usually determine what kind of leader you are.

Different types of leadership styles

  1. Autocratic
  2. Democratic
  3. Laissez-faire
  4. Transformational
  5. Transactional
  6. Servant
  7. Situational
  8. Charismatic
  9. Coaching
  10. Visionary
  11. Bureaucratic
  12. Quiet
  13. Task-oriented
  14. People-oriented
  15. Adaptive

Learn more about the different leadership styles by reading this article and find out which best suits your and your team’s needs.

Characteristics of a good leader

A young leader presenting new ideas

People may have different leadership styles, but all good leaders share these common traits:

  1. Confident
  2. Fair
  3. Effective communicator
  4. Embraces responsibility
  5. Good attention to detail
  6. Strong motivator
  7. Problem-solver

Importance of self-awareness in leadership

Perhaps the most vital characteristic of a good leader is self-awareness. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses helps you choose the right leadership style for you and your team. These can also help determine your readiness for a leadership role.

‘It’s important to try and gain an overall perspective, not just from your direct line manager, but also from your peer group and leaders in different departments as well, so that you get a holistic view,’ says Christian Bonadio, Regional Director of Michael Page in Melbourne, on how to get on the leadership track.

‘That awareness will help you adjust or adapt your style or approach to suit a wide range of individuals you might be responsible for leading at some point further in your career.’

Key leadership skills

To develop good leadership skills, you must identify your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you chart your leadership development, setting goals for yourself so you can progressively work on your skills.

Not everyone is born a good leader. But with discipline and continuous improvement, you can develop these fundamental leadership skills.

Leadership skills examples

Two employees working together

1. Communication skills

Being a good leader means communicating your team’s goals well and making it clear to every person what their roles are. Communication skills are all about expressing ideas effectively, so you must continuously improve how you reach out to your team members. Good communication skills can also help you become an inspiring leader.

Tips on how to improve your communication skills:

  • Practise active listening. Communication is a two-way street. To express yourself effectively, you must also listen to what other people are saying. Try to understand where they are coming from, their needs, and their motivations. In this way, you can convey your message in a way that responds to other people’s sentiments.
  • Speak clearly and assertively. To ensure that you’re delivering your message effectively, you must speak clearly and confidently. You have to talk loud enough to evoke confidence and clear intention while remaining calm to avoid negative reactions.
  • Nonverbal communication. You can also communicate well through body language. Effective nonverbal communication gives deeper meaning to your verbal statements by adding instantly felt visual and tactile cues. Whether it’s a tap on the shoulder, a firm handshake, or a warm smile, little gestures can go a long way to motivating your employees and emphasising your points to them.

Examples of communication skills needed by a leader

  • Giving feedback or constructive criticism
  • Writing memos
  • Making presentations
  • Giving direction to employees
  • Spearheading meetings
  • Coaxing feedback and ideas from employees
  • Listening to employees’ needs and concerns

2. Emotional intelligence

Good leadership requires emotional intelligence, which means understanding and managing employees' emotions effectively. ‘When it comes to being a leader of others, everyone is different; everyone’s motivation is different,’ says Lazada Group regional head Sandy Huang. ‘I actually learn from the people from my team. I learn how to be a better leader.’

Developing empathy lets you learn from your employees’ points of view. This paves the way for mutually beneficial relationships in and out of the workplace. Listening to your team and understanding what they need helps engender trust and unity in the group. Leadership is not just about targets and deadlines. It is also about people management.

You should also make sure your ego does not get in the way of managing. ‘One thing is very important: to get our ego checked,’ says Malayan Flour Mills Berhad General Manager of Group Human Resources Carol Chan. When you climb the corporate ladder and gain authority and power, ‘that ego actually sometimes boosts up. So always have to get your ego checked, stay hungry for knowledge, and always stay humble.’

Examples of emotional intelligence in a leader

  • Humility, being receptive to input from employees
  • Doing regular check-ins with employees
  • Monitoring and managing your employees’ mental health
  • Speaking to employees in private instead of criticising them in front of their peers or colleagues
  • Giving encouraging words to employees to boost their confidence

3. Decision making

Making important decisions is one of the most essential roles of leaders. It is one of the best ways to demonstrate leadership skills. You must develop the requisite expertise, courage, and accountability to make decisions that can affect your team or your organisation as a whole.

It also helps to improve your analytical and critical thinking skills. These are some of the vital leadership and management skills that can aid you in arriving at the best decision for you and your employees. You should also study the different decision-making models and choose the one best for your situation.

  • Rational decision model – arriving at a decision based on a logical analysis of possible solutions to a problem. This involves looking at available options, weighing each of them, then choosing the best course of action. This is usually the best decision-making model when you have ample time to consider an issue.
  • Intuitive decision model – this is used by leaders who find themselves in situations where they need to make instant decisions. The intuitive model is often used when you do not have the benefit of time or have little to no information at the moment, so you rely instead on your instincts. Experience and knowledge are very valuable in these situations.
  • Creative decision model – using original ideas, often not based on past experience, is what the creative decision model is all about. It requires an innovative spirit, courage, and open-mindedness. Some of the biggest successes in business were achieved using this decision model.

Examples of good decision-making skills by leaders

  • Making decisions based on facts and data instead of emotions
  • Consulting team members and other relevant stakeholders before arriving at a decision
  • Weighing the different factors involved and valuing each one according to importance
  • Defining the goal of the particular decision you need to make
  • Taking full responsibility and accountability for your decision

4. Time management

Being a leader goes beyond managing people. It is also often about managing time effectively. Time management is planning work to optimise the use of time and, if possible, avoid overtime at work. This involves setting targets, distributing tasks, and monitoring the progress of individual work as well as of the entire project.

Strategies for effective time management

  • Plan ahead. Make sure that you have all bases covered and that you set realistic targets. Know everything that needs to be done to accomplish the main goal. You can break them down into smaller targets to distribute to your team as daily or weekly tasks.
  • Make a timetable. It helps to have a calendar of all your targets plotted out visually so you are always aware of the work that still needs to be done and the time you have left. This ensures that time is constantly optimised and targets can be adjusted accordingly.
  • Avoid duplication of tasks. Each task should be properly defined by its goals and what is required to carry it out. That way, you can avoid unnecessary overlap or repetition of work.
  • Monitor the progress of your tasks. By assessing the targets you have reached so far versus your timetable, you can make the appropriate diagnoses to address any concern. Then, you can make the necessary adjustments: reassign a certain task, adjust a few deadlines, or reallocate resources to a task that is behind schedule.

5. Adaptability

Being flexible and always ready to adapt to changes is another important leadership skill. As a leader, you must be ready to respond to new challenges and improvise if necessary. This skill will allow you to solve problems quickly and also enable you to innovate.

Being adaptable takes humility. Acknowledge that you do not know everything and be willing to learn new things. It also takes creativity, which means not being too reliant on formulas and being willing to try new solutions.

Examples of adaptability in leaders

  • Upskilling or reskilling
  • Taking on new or additional roles
  • Learning new software or apps
  • Being open to new ideas
  • Using a different leadership style when the occasion calls for it

6. Conflict resolution

Interpersonal leadership skills are important in creating a harmonious work environment for your employees. If there are conflicts among members of your team, then you should serve as a bridge between parties and help resolve differences.

This is where building relationships with your employees can pay dividends. You can identify the problem more effectively if employees feel comfortable sharing their grievances with you. Practise active listening with all parties involved to get both sides and suggest a mutually-beneficial resolution.

Empathy is essential in conflict resolution and addressing any problems related to work. ‘When I work together with them (team members), I try to understand from their perspective, taking in their role, how they will deal with the issue,’ shares Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) Project Manager Roy Tan. ‘What I would usually do is guide them through mistakes that I used to make. So, there’s a lot of these experiences that I share with them.’

Examples of conflict resolution skills in leaders

  • Removing biases and favouritism when dealing with conflict
  • Being honest but fair
  • Negotiating a commonly-beneficial outcome
  • Remaining calm and being the voice of reason
  • Making policy decisions that can help avoid future conflict

7. Strategic thinking

Leaders are also visionaries. They set the team's long-term vision, identify their goals, and what they need to do to achieve them. Aside from dealing with the day-to-day, a manager should be able to step back and see the bigger picture for the group. As chief visionary, you need strategic skills to define and map out your overall vision.

Strategic thinking is the analysis of multiple factors to plot a course of action to achieve a goal. This involves identifying opportunities to explore and tap into, as well as threats or challenges to overcome. From these, you can craft your strategy, clearly stating your goal along with detailed ways to implement it.

Examples of strategic leadership skills

  • Choosing your target market
  • Proposing hiring a new team to upper management
  • Mapping out the career development of employees
  • Formulating the brand strategy for a product or company
  • Business continuity planning

8. Delegation

Delegating tasks to employees is another effective way to demonstrate leadership skills. You must be able to brief and train your team members properly so that they can be trusted to carry on tasks you assign to them. Identify their strengths and weaknesses so that you can tailor their duties and responsibilities according to their skills. Later, you can train them for bigger roles.

An important facet of delegation is providing support while also fostering independence among your employees. Giving them a certain level of autonomy can empower them and allow them to grow.

‘I learned very early on in my career that I don’t want to be a micromanager’, says Cyrene Kong, Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation at RHB Banking Group. ‘I like to give employees room to grow and to come up with their own ideas and challenge the norm. I’m not always right, so it’s more inclusive in that sense.’

Examples of delegation skills in leaders

  • Assigning an officer-in-charge when you are on leave
  • Promoting an employee and giving him or her bigger roles
  • Reassigning a periodic task to an assistant manager
  • Assigning unit or sub-unit heads to whom you can delegate daily monitoring tasks
  • Letting an employee take the lead on a project to give them an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of a higher position


Leadership is one of the most essential soft skills. It binds organisations together and helps individuals work towards a common goal. To become an effective leader, you need to think strategically to set your team’s vision. You also need to become an effective communicator with high emotional intelligence so you can sell your vision to your team members.

Being a good leader also requires problem-solving skills like adaptability, time management, conflict resolution, decision-making, and delegation. It is beneficial for leaders and people who wish to move up to management roles to keep developing these critical leadership skills through mentorship, training, and valuable experience.


  1. What are the most important leadership skills?
    • Delegation – for assigning roles

    • Decision making – you will ultimately be the one calling the shots

    • Interpersonal leadership skills (communication skills, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution) – to build relationships and trust among your team

  2. What is the importance of leadership skills in the workplace?
    Leadership skills allow individuals in the organisation to work effectively as a team, by uniting them in a common goal and giving them direction. Good leadership skills can inspire and empower people to maximise their potential.
  3. Can leadership skills be developed, or are they innate?
    Some people are born leaders. These are often extroverts or people with strong or charismatic personalities. But leadership skills can also be developed, by working on  one’s emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, adaptability, delegation, and time management.
  4. What are some ways to improve leadership skills?
    You can improve your leadership skills through mentorship from your managers. Many strong leadership skills can be learned and developed through experience. You can learn a lot from the people who have gained valuable insights and skills through years of managing a team. You can also go through proper training, for instance, by mastering the use of planning software or studying strategic planning.
  5. How can I identify my strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
    Awareness of your strengths and weaknesses as a leader requires proper self-reflection. Think about the areas you excel at and your areas of improvement when put in a leadership role. It also helps to listen to the feedback of others. Your most recent performance reviews can be a handy guide for what you need further work on.
  6. How can I apply leadership skills in my personal life?
    You can use leadership skills within your personal relationships, particularly conflict resolution and time management. You can take on some responsibilities in the household and take the lead in some family activities. You can also practise good communication skills with your loved ones in order to foster good relationships.
  7. How can I improve my communication skills as a leader?
    Make sure you are constantly checking in with your employees. Always let them know that you are available for support and consultation. Working on your nonverbal communication through positive gestures and physical contact can also help you reinforce your messages to your team and establish a deeper bond with them.
  8. What is emotional intelligence and why is it important for leaders?
    Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage emotions, both yours and your employees'. It is being mindful of how others are feeling so that you can make decisions and set policies that do not offend. Emotional intelligence is vital, especially in this age when mental health is becoming a top priority in many organisations.
  9. How can I motivate my team?
    Start by communicating your goals clearly. If you can get them on board with a common goal, you already have a good foundation for motivation. You can also give occasional praise for a job done well and words of encouragement during challenging times by using both verbal and nonverbal communication.
  10. What are some common leadership mistakes to avoid?
  • Not being attentive to your employees’ needs
  • Putting your ego ahead of your team’s goals
  • Not prioritising the development of your employees
  • Not taking responsibility and shifting blame when something goes wrong
  • Focusing too much on daily tasks and failing to consider long-term goals

Want more tips on how to improve your leadership skills? Go to our Career Advice page and explore our rich archive of expert insights. #SEEKBetter jobs by downloading the JobStreet app from the App Store or Google Play and get instant access to the latest job opportunities from the top companies in Malaysia.

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