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32 Key Leadership Competencies for Effective Leadership

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Being a successful leader requires more than just intelligence or skill. It all comes down to what you do on the job and how you treat others. And that's what leadership competencies are for.

Managers today face many new challenges. They need to provide continuous coaching and manage remote workers. It can get complicated at times. But, with the right support system, you can reach higher levels in leadership.

The following 32 leadership competencies are a great starting point. It will provide you with the tools you need to become effective leaders. These competencies will help you to improve your current leadership skills.

So, let's first understand what leadership competencies are? Why is it so important for leaders and businesses?

What are Leadership Competencies?


Leadership competencies are skills and attributes that make you a good leader. It is an integral part of modern workforce management.

When we describe leadership success, we are not only talking about the leader. Instead, the value of a leader is determined by the success of their entire team.

Today's competitive market requires efficient teamwork. Leaders now need essential competencies and not just mere hard skills.

Every company generally has some kind of internal competency framework. To succeed in the future, businesses need to -

  • Develop leadership through important leadership competencies. It can help companies identify and develop future leaders.
  • Align business vision with the leadership attributes. This alignment will help to create a competitive advantage in the market.

Question is how to achieve alignment to meet future demands?

SHRM issued a report in 2008 on "Changing Leadership Strategies". The report states increased competition as the main reason for these changes. Hence, L&D departments must revise their existing leadership competency models.

Competency models empower enterprises to sail through challenging times. To build sustainable competency models, it is vital to consider current business trends. The future of business trends demands the following list of leadership competencies.

Key Leadership Competencies


Want to become a more competent leader? These 32 leadership competencies are what you need to focus on!

Please note: The below list of leadership competencies isn't exhaustive. So, one competency can fit in more than one category.

Key leadership competencies for leading the organization are divided into five categories:

A. Managing Self


  1. Be a leader with integrity: Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Leaders with integrity behave in an honest, fair and ethical manner. They stand true to their character and values.

  2. Make learning a habit (Agility): 2020 has taught us the importance of quick adaptation. Agile leaders aren't afraid of change; instead, they embrace it. They can learn, unlearn, and relearn. Agile leaders assess and recognize their strengths and weaknesses.

  3. Practice resilience: Resilient leaders are courageous and composed. They can recover from setbacks and manage emotions. Thus, resilient leaders can easily lead in any challenging situations.

  4. Strong communication: Good leaders share clear, concise and transparent information to their teams. They listen and clarify information as needed. Employees' performance increases under such leaders.

  5. Be good at problem-solving: Good leaders identify and analyze problems. They use their practical experience to solve problems that arise in the workplace. Before making suggestions, a competent leader tests the relevance and accuracy of the information. They come up with and test alternative solutions to problems.

  6. Practice organizational citizenship behavior: Set a good example to inspire others. One way of doing so is by demonstrating the OCB you would like to see in others. Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is an organizational behavior term. It is used to describe positive and constructive employee actions and behaviors. These actions and behaviors are generally not in the formal job description. It's what employees do out of their own free will. Such employee behavior benefits both the organization and their coworkers.

B. Managing Projects


  1. Be a team player and encourage teamwork: Good leaders inspire and foster team commitment, spirit, pride, and trust. A valuable quality in a leader is their ability to be a team player. Effective leaders know what each member of their team can contribute to a project. Hence, they recognize the skills required and know-how to use them. They also promote collaboration and motivate team members to achieve group goals.

  2. Good customer service: Great leaders expect and meet the needs of both internal and external customers. They deliver high-quality products and services to build trust.

  3. Practice technical credibility: Good leaders understand the importance of technical credibility. They gain expertise in the area and company in which they are leaders. Besides this, effective leaders know how to expertly implement procedures and policies.

  4. Practice accountability: Accountable leaders determine objectives, set priorities, and delegate work. Good leaders take responsibility for their mistakes and follow established control systems.

  5. Be good at decision-making: Good leaders make well-informed, effective, and timely decisions. They make the right decisions even with limited data or during challenging circumstances. These leaders also consider the long-term impact of their decisions.

  6. Use influence to persuade others: Good leaders build consensus through give and take. They influence others to get information and achieve goals.

C. Managing People


  1. Excel in people management: People management is crucial for leading others especially for human resource leaders. HR leaders manage the workforce based on organizational goals, budgets, and staffing needs. They ensure employees are recruited, selected, appraised, and rewarded. People management skills help address performance problems and manage a multi-sector workforce.

  2. Develop your interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills are also referred to as people skills or soft skills. Leaders with interpersonal skills treat others with courtesy, sensitivity, and respect. They respond to the needs and feelings of different people in different situations.

  3. Foster diversity and collaboration: Competent leaders value diversity and personal differences. They foster an inclusive workplace with collaborative team culture. Such culture allows companies to complete projects and meet deadlines.

  4. Reduce and manage conflicts: Conflict of some sort or the other is unavoidable in the workplace. Hence, competent leaders manage and reduce conflict. They prevent counter-productive confrontations in their workplace.

  5. Encourage public service: Competent leaders show commitment towards serving the public. They ensure that actions meet the general needs of the public. Such leaders align business objectives and practices with shared interests. They build public trust, thereby increasing sales of the company.

  6. Support team members: Teamwork helps companies maximize output and productivity. Good leaders support team members by providing ongoing feedback. They make learning more convenient by using both formal and informal methods. Competent leaders can identify knowledge gaps and assist their people in bridging them. They motivate teams to achieve their goals in a more structured and simple way.

  7. Be a good coach & be trustworthy: Leaders need to be many things to many other people. One of them is being a good coach. A leader needs to coach not for those in their team but also their peers. Trust is crucial for a successful coaching relationship. It's also vital for leaders to build and maintain strong relationships. Most industries operate based on established trust between employers, employees, and consumers.

  8. Be inclusive: Good leaders create a work environment in which everybody feels welcome. They ensure equal and respectful treatment for every employee. Such leaders provide the same conveniences and resources for everyone. In other words: competent leaders are inclusive.

  9. Practice emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is about understanding people's emotions and emotional situations. It's about the capacity to understand and manage self emotions. Competent leaders are emotionally intelligent. It is related to leadership "charisma".

D. Managing Programs


  1. Develop technology management skills: Competent leaders keep themselves up-to-date on technological developments. They make effective use of technology in worplace to achieve results. Such leaders ensure access to and security of technical systems.

  2. Learn to manage finances: An organizational leader should understand the organization's financial processes. Competent corporate leaders prepare, justify, and administer the program budget. They oversee procurement and contracting to achieve desired results. Such leaders track expenditures and use cost-benefit thinking to set priorities.

  3. Foster innovation: As a competent leader you should put in place new innovative ideas. Innovative ideas help to create more efficient processes, products and improve customer experiences. Competent leaders help catalyze steady business growth. They develop new insights for various situations and think out-of-the-box.

  4. Leverage your networks: Internal networking is important to achieve goals. So, good leaders build strong relationships with their key stakeholders. Building such relationships can develop communication and enable easier approval of projects. They also network across boundaries to build strategic relationships and achieve common goals.

  5. Develop your political skills: Competent leaders identify internal and external politics that impact the workplace. They perceive organizational and political reality and act accordingly. An effective leader has good knowledge about the current office politics. They are aware of the game and can manage political behavior to avoid organizational dysfunction.

E. Leading Organizations


  1. Be aware of the external environment: External awareness is important when it comes to leadership. A competent leader should be up-to-date on various business trends. They should be aware of all policies and trends that can affect the organization. Competent leaders understand the impact of the external environment on businesses.

  2. Share a compelling vision: The company's vision is an important reason people want to work for you. Your organization's vision is its future aim based on its goals and aspirations. Competent leaders take the long-term view to build a shared vision with others. They act as a catalyst for organizational change. Visionary leaders influence others to translate vision into action.

  3. Develop strategic skills: Strategic skills are a crucial element of the leadership competency model. Competent leaders can think strategically which results in high-quality deliverables. Strategic leaders save organizations from making hasty decisions. They plan the objectives and priorities of the organization. Good leaders install plans for an organization's long-term interest in a global environment. They capitalize on opportunities and manage risks.

  4. Have an entrepreneurial mindset: Good leaders position the organization for future success by identifying new opportunities. They build the organization by developing or improving products or services. Competent leaders take calculated risks to achieve organizational objectives.

  5. Be a change manager: Organizations change constantly. Some of these changes are small, while others take time to reflect. Effective leaders prepare, support, and guide their people through these various organizational changes. Such leaders are excellent communicators. They can communicate needs and ensure that all stakeholders are comfortable with it. Competent leaders also cut complexities, reduce impact and smoothen the process of change.

  6. Practice social Intelligence: Social intelligence (SI) is one of the best predictors of effective leadership. Social intelligence is about our capacity to understand different social situations and dynamics. It also comprises our ability to operate in these various social situations. Effective leaders understand complex social performance and sensitivity of social problems.



Leadership competencies are essential for every leader. It is a must-have, regardless of the industry and company you are in.

Leadership competences create a positive influence in the workplace. It helps you to reflect on future business strategies and goals. It is a crucial step in creating a successful leadership brand.

The creation of a leadership brand benefits the company through increased share price. It gives them an advantage in the marketplace against their competition. For example, how Elon Musk's creation of his leadership brand benefited Tesla. He is the prime advertiser for the company.

Competent leaders increase productivity, improve workplace morale and inspire team members. To be a competent leader a clear set of standards and skills can provide you a roadmap to success. These set standards help to maintain a competitive advantage in their direct market. It also helps to determine and build employees into future leaders.

Leadership competencies, however, have few existing concerns when it comes to organizational implementation. A research report by Mercer points out the following challenges-

  • The current leadership capabilities are not aligned with existing or emerging trends.
  • A weak bench of leadership talents is unprepared to step into key roles.
  • There is a shortage of potential succession candidates for mission-critical roles.

To overcome these challenges L&D departments must revise their existing competency models. They should align their models with the future business requirements.

Please note: Leadership competencies depend on the industry and leadership positions you are in.

What leadership competencies are important in your organization? Was it listed in this article? If not, feel free to share them with us!

This article is written by Tanya Ahmed, a Digital Marketer of Vantage Circle, a cloud-based employee engagement platform. She is a leadership enthusiast with a post-graduate MBA in Leadership from Queen Mary University of London. Her experiences range from various fields, including Customer relationships, Content Creating, Sales and Marketing. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com.

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