6 Essential Leadership Skills That Drive Success These critical skills have nothing to do with how much of an expert you are in your field.
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When you picture what an effective leader looks like, you may imagine someone strong and confident, with years of experience under his or her belt. And while those indeed contribute to being a great leader, even the most seasoned experts struggle with what it means to lead a team. Leadership doesn't come naturally to everyone, and for many, it takes quite a bit of practice and constant awareness in order to fill some big shoes.
Leadership can look like many different things to many people: It combines management strategy, people skills and vision. It's not about seniority or rank because a title alone does not magically transform someone into a communicative, effective leader. Poor leadership can steer a well-established company into the ground, and it can destroy the chances of a solid startup taking off.
So, what are the most effective leadership skills? Hint: They have nothing to do with how much of an expert you are in your field.
1. Know how to be supportive
Supportive leaders are available to their employees, explain their decisions, collaborate and effectively communicate plans and strategies. A good leader can enhance employee morale and make an effort to be aware of what his or her team is accomplishing on a regular basis. You can give support via daily encouragement and show appreciation for the hard work being put in day in and day out.
A good leader helps minimize his or her team's obstacles and helps people overcome whatever is keeping them from doing their best job.
2. Have and show empathy
Simply put, you are not a robot — and neither are your team members or employees. Everyone has his or her own problems or gripes, just as everyone has individual wins and accomplishments. You need to understand what people are telling you and be able to prioritize their feelings as well.
A leader is able to see the situation from the viewpoint of his or her employee and understand how he or she came to feel what he or she is feeling. Your employees dedicate much of their lives to their jobs, and in turn, you need to be able to show you care about their well-being.
3. Keep communication constant
To be clear, no one likes a micromanager. But not checking in with your crew members and ensuring they understand the scope of their roles and duties can backfire quickly. Certain necessary details can fall through the cracks and delay a project or cause other mishaps. A good leader can effectively communicate his or her strategies even if it means diving deeper with someone who needs clarification.
Additionally, and this circles right back to having empathy, someone on your team could be going through a difficult time, whether at work or at home, and being aware of something urgent or complicated helps you understand when a deadline is missed so you can work on a plan to fix it.
4. Be able to make decisions
Even with effective communication, mistakes can be made. Those mistakes may be on you, or they may fall on someone else, but when decision-making time comes, your team needs to know why you're choosing that route. You should be able to clearly articulate why you're making this decision in order to create confidence in the task or project. Without this confidence, you risk your employees losing faith in the decisions you make.
Ultimately, both the good and the bad all fall back on you as a leader. The only way for your employees to support your process is if they understand you.
5. Plan effectively
A quick and surefire way to breed resentment within a team is with poor planning. No one likes to spend countless hours chipping away at work for it to go nowhere or to have the strategy change a dozen times. You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don't clearly map out how it will come to fruition, it forever remains just an idea.
Teams thrive on having a defined process and timeline for how to move forward. If you're effectively communicating your plan, everyone can better understand how to put the pieces together. With this ability to plan comes our last essential skill.
Related: Top 10 Habits of Outstanding Leaders
A successful leader fosters collaboration within teams and among them. When one group is left in the dark about what another team is doing, essential details tend to get lost in the daily hustle and bustle. A good company has as much open communication as possible. Collaboration helps you catch errors quickly, and it keeps teams running efficiently.
Collaboration empowers team members and instills confidence. People are better able to stay on the same page so roadblocks can be taken care of in a timely manner, reducing the risk of resentment among team members. Problems are solved together, and great ideas can form with each member's input. Furthermore, this collaboration shows you trust your team. That, in itself, is a major win for any leader.