Are you a born leader or did you develop your leadership skills over time? If you fall into the latter category, then you know that becoming a leader takes more than just acquiring the right skills. It also takes practice, dedication, and a growth mindset.

But what exactly are the core skills that every leader needs? While opinions differ, we believe that there are 8 essential skills that all leaders must possess, and here they are (in no particular order): 

A vector graphic image of people standing on a staircase in order to lift an orange arrow to a 90 degree angle with a list of 8 essential skills of a business leader from Growth Marketing Firm.

Let's take a closer look at each one. 

  1. Communication
  2. Empathy
  3. Democracy
  4. Transparency
  5. Delegation
  6. Courage
  7. Self-Awareness
  8. Inspiration


1. Next-Level Communication 

Next-level communicators are able to get their point across clearly and concisely while also taking into account the needs of their audience. 

They understand that different people require different types of communication in order to absorb information, so they practice their skills often to diverse audiences and seek feedback and insights from others.

Leaders who recognize the importance of communication inspire their teams to feel understood and appreciated—which is linked to high morale and performance.

Luckily, communication is a skill that can be learned with practice. 

Here are a few tips that can lead to improvement:

  • Listen more than you talk
  • Make eye contact (especially in remote meetings—it helps to look at the camera, not the screen)
  • Avoid using jargon
  • Take good notes after conversations

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2. Empathy

Empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—is a critical skill for leaders who make decisions that impact not only your company but also your teams and shareholders.

Therefore, as a business leader, it is essential that you proactively make time to truly get to know your people. 

By actively listening to and understanding their goals and aspirations, you gain massive opportunities to motivate and inspire them which builds trust that leads to a more productive and cohesive team overall. 

When you take the time to empathize with those who will be affected by your decisions, you gain valuable insights into their needs and concerns. This understanding can help you make choices that are in everyone's best interests.

Plus, empathy is what we all deserve, right?

3. Democracy

A split screen in which a boss style is compared to a leadership style.

When you think of democracy, you don’t always think of business leadership because, for centuries, businesses have used a top-down model that involved one person making decisions for everyone in the business. 

However, we now know that a democratic model is much more beneficial for businesses. Therefore, having a strong sense of justice, equality, and inclusion is a key trait for modern business leadership. 

When everyone in the business has a say in the decision-making process, it's more likely that those decisions will be ones that are truly in everyone's best interests—not just the interests of those at the top.

And that inspires a deep trust and mutual respect that empowers your teams. 

Empowered people are more productive, more loyal, and healthier overall. Plus, sharing the load makes for a healthier, happier leader.

So don't shy away from finding new ways of involving your whole team, even with big decisions.

To create big opportunities for true collaboration, use tools like:

4. Transparency

A business leader giving a presentation on gathered data for stakeholders using a projected screen.

Transparency builds trust between leaders and their teams, shareholders, investors, vendors, and customers—and when those stakeholders feel like they understand the decision-making process, they are more likely to support those decisions. And that takes honest, open communication and transparency. 

There are a few ways that business leaders can be more transparent, but one way is to share as much information as possible with all interested parties. 

That sounds difficult, and it is without the right tools. 

Since we use HubSpot for just about everything we do at Growth, it’s easy to “show our work” to everyone involved in real time. That way, data isn’t siloed or behind walls—which inspires trust, ownership, and productivity. 

5. The Ability to Delegate

A leader's ability to delegate is essential to their success as well as the success of their individual team members.

By delegating tasks and authority to others, you’re able to free up your time to focus on leading the business forward—which, let’s face it, is a herculean task in itself.  

Delegation allows you to develop the skills of those around you, and promote teamwork and cooperation. 

By trusting others with important tasks, you build trust within your team and create an environment where everyone gains a sense of ownership and feels invested in the company's success.

Remember: delegation doesn’t mean handing off responsibility and walking away. A true leader provides guidance and support when needed. 

A business leader writing notes to their team on a whiteboard with a quote about the benefits of delegation from Growth Marketing Firm.

6. Courage

Leadership is about making tough decisions—plain and simple—and being able to do so with ease and standing by those decisions when things get tough separates the best from the rest. 

And that takes true courage. 

But, being courageous and decisive doesn't mean always having all the answers. 

In fact, some of the most successful leaders are those who know how to ask for help when they need it and remain open-minded and willing to listen to different points of view before making decisions.

And even when they had assistance with tough decisions that may not go as planned, the best leaders take full responsibility for them and know how to accept both praise and criticism in equal measure.

7. Self-Awareness

Without knowing your true strengths and weaknesses, you run the risk of making poor decisions that could have negative consequences for your business and team.

When you're self-aware, you're able to play to your strengths and delegate tasks that are outside your skill set. 

It also enables you to more easily identify potential blind spots so that you can make sure other people on your team are aware of them, too.

Being self-aware doesn't mean that you never make mistakes—we all do! But it does mean that when a mistake happens, you're more likely to be able to learn from it and prevent similar ones from happening in the future.

8. The Gift of Inspiring Others

As a leader, strive to set the best example for those around you. This means living your life in accordance with the values you wish to instill in others. 

It also means being open-minded and taking an active interest in learning new things yourself. 

By setting such a positive example, you encourage others to do the same and help create a better workplace, community, and world. 

At Growth, every member of our team is a leader in their own right, but our founder, Chris Nault, inspires us all to pull together toward a singular vision for Growth, our clients, and our communities.

It’s his leadership style that inspired this post, and he embodies the spirit of each of these leadership characteristics and more. 

Curious about how we lead from all sides here at Growth? Ask us. We’re right here. 

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