What do we mean by good leadership skills?

Good Leadership Skills Metaphors

Throughout the ages people have attempted to capture a definition of great leadership skills in metaphors. A metaphor is used to help us understand something by suggesting a comparison between two things. Common metaphors used to describe good leadership skills are:

  • The Warrior leader (the heroic leader) – give an example?
  • The leader as a conductor – (see Max Dephree’s book Leadership Jazz)
  • Leader as an artist / craftsman / technocrat - (see Patricia Pitcher’s book The Drama of Leadership)
  • The leader as a Goose in a flock of geese – (see Belasco and Stayer’s Flight of the Buffalo)

    These are good leadership skills but reflect a personality bias in describing good leaders. Modern leadership definitions reflect a humanistic and generous dealings with others together with visioning and influencing skills.

    More on good leadership skills

    good leadership skills

    The Corporate executive centre defines effective leadership skills in four main areas which are:


    People management : About persuasive communications, performance management and developing and motivating others
    Personal characteristics: Honesty and integrity, comfort with ambiguity, managerial courage, openness to change
    Process management : Planning and problem solving, budgeting and measuring results
    Strategic management : breadth of thinking, commercial understanding, innovation , thinking flexibility

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    Eight good leadership skills

    If you are to remember anything about great leadership skills , remember the following:

    1) Practise good communication with your stakeholders. Good communication involves listening to what people have to say. Use your active listening skills, making sure that you really have understood your follower. Ask appropriate questions to help you understand and gather the information you need.

    2) Set goals with your team . Give them a vision something to strive towards. With inexperienced followers you may set the goals for them, with more experienced followers discuss the goals. Make sure the goals you set are specific, challenging yet attainable.

    3) Communicate the expectations. Let people know what is expected of them and check that they understand.

    4) Monitor your direct reports appropriately. Inexperienced followers will require closer monitoring than more experienced followers.

    5) Give your stakeholders feedback –based on their results. Feedback can help people specifically with the tasks they are involved with and also make them feel valued. Everyone likes to feel that what they are doing is worthwhile and valued.

    6) Diagnose your team member’s development level for any particular task they have to perform. Figure out what it is that they need from you as their leader - do they need direction or do they just need some support?

    7) Be flexible with your leadership style. Inexperienced followers will need a more directive style than experienced followers. Empower and trust experienced followers – give them some slack. Involve more experienced followers in your decision making if it affects them.

    8) Keep your team informed. Give them the “big picture” - engage their hearts as well as their minds!

    A Final word…….


    Buckingham and Coffman state (authors of the best selling book “First, Break All the Rules”, 1999) good leadership skills are demonstrated in a leader who says:

    “You come to work with me and I’ll help you be as successful as possible: I’ll help you grow: I’ll help you make sure you’re in the right role; I’ll provide the relationship for you to understand and know yourself. And I want you to be more successful than me.”

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