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Become a Visionary Leader

The Most Important Skills in Senior Leadership

Applying for a senior management position can be tricky. Looking good on paper is great but it’s probably not enough. And if you’ve been confused about why things didn’t turn out the way you wanted even though your resume is appealing, it’s probably because being a senior leader requires skills outside of your expertise.

Being a senior leader means that your expertise is a given. It’s the additional skills that’s important. As Ralph Nader said, “I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers“.

Here are a few.

Investment in employee development

Being a senior leader means your role is as much for your career as it is for your team, if not more so. Being invested in the growth of each member of your team is what will help your team grow, and then therefore become the foundation for your own success as well as the company’s success. So companies are looking for leaders who will look for potential in their team and help them achieve their goals.

MIT PE Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Investment in self development

While you invest in your team, it is also important that you invest in yourself. Companies are looking for leaders who are honest with themselves and are invested in bettering themselves regularly. Whether it is to be more aware of the environment around you and your industry, to learn new skills or update them, or learn to be more adaptive and flexible. Keep studying and improving yourself personally and professionally. This will not only help you become a better leader but also benefit your organization.

Honesty with your team

People can tell when they are being constantly lied to and even though they might not know exactly what the issue is, it reduces trust and then loyalty. This is also true when people feel they are being manipulated. It affects their trust and therefore their performance. Be honest with your team and deal with matters together as a team.

Great communication skills

Being a leader doesn’t only involve understanding complex matters yourself. It also means you need to break down concepts, plans, and ideas for your team. You might even have to break it down differently for each employee, depending on their capacities and strengths so that everyone is on the same page and is working toward the same goal. You also need exceptional communication skills to gain the trust and confidence of your team, be their support system, avoid miscommunication and uncertainty, and leave no room for doubt. Companies are often looking for senior leaders who are well-spoken and communicative.


Problem-solving and decision-making skills

Possibly the hardest and most important job of a senior leader is to be able to make big decisions confidently. To be able to understand all the potential consequences and take responsibility for the decisions is not an easy position to be in and requires a lot of maturity. So does taking up a problem and finding a solution to it that is not obvious. If it was someone would have found it before you. Companies are looking for leaders who can dig deep into their creativity and device a solution for problematic situations. These decisions may be for the team, a department, or the company, but this is an important quality that companies look for in potential senior leaders. Decision making is a whole new world when you’re in the midst of a crisis. To read about how you can improve your decision-making skills during the current environment, read Decision Making During the Coronavirus Crisis.

‘The buck stops at me’ attitude

Companies are looking for senior leaders who can take responsibility for their team. Someone who will lead and guide their team with such honesty and confidence that the result is something they believe in. As a senior leader you are as good as your team. So if and when your team fails, or things don’t go as planned, which will happen more times than you’d like, you cannot point fingers. Ultimately, you are responsible for the team’s output.

Empathy and understanding

Companies also look for leaders who can not only get work done from their team, but also be empathetic and understanding to the human qualities we all possess. Teams usually stick around with bosses or leaders they connect with and make the effort to understand them personally. Senior leaders need to listen to their team and be open to their views and work accordingly. Leaders who only delegate without showing empathy for their team generally lose their team.

Being a senior leader demands many soft skills, people skills, and organizational and planning skills that are not usually asked for in a job description. So learning how to prioritize, communicate, be responsible and be a mentor is important. While leadership is not an easy job, it’s even more difficult during hard times. Learn how to Lead Calmly in a High-Stress Situation and Leadership in Disruptive Times and Leading Multicultural Organizations to help you through these rough times we’re experiencing currently.


Q. How can you encourage teamwork during a mandatory work from home directive?

A. One way to instill and encourage teamwork is through gamification of important projects.


Q. What is the hardest part about being a senior leader?

A. To make big decisions confidently. It requires a leader to be able to understand all the potential consequences and take responsibility for the decisions.

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