The most important skills for leaders: How do you score?

by Janie Smith05 Aug 2014
Do leaders need to develop different skills depending on what level of the organisation they operate at?

Research by leadership development consultancy Zenger/Folkman revealed that although the bosses and employees surveyed reported that the skills leaders needed depended on their level in the organisation and the job they held, there was a lot of consistency around which skills were the most important across all organisational levels.

In a Harvard Business Review blog post, Zenger/Folkman CEO Jack Zenger and president Joseph Folkman wrote that the same competencies were selected as “most important for the supervisors, middle managers and senior managers alike and six out of the seven topped the list for top executives”.

According to their survey of 332,860 professionals, these are the top skills voted most necessary skills for all management positions, in order of importance:
  1. Inspires and motivates others
  2. Displays high integrity and honesty
  3. Solves problems and analyses issues
  4. Drives for results
  5. Communicates powerfully and prolifically
  6. Collaborates and promotes teamwork
  7. Builds relationships
  8. Displays technical or professional expertise
  9. Displays a strategic perspective
  10. Develops others
  11. Takes initiative
  12. Innovates
  13. Champions change
  14. Connects the group to the outside world
  15. Establishes stretch goals
  16. Practices self-development
In the blog post, Zenger and Folkman wrote that although those were the top competencies overall, different groups ranked them in a slightly different order.

“With middle managers, problem solving moves ahead of everything else. Then for senior management, communicating powerfully and prolifically moves to the number two spot. Only for top executives does a new competency enter the mix, as the ability to develop a strategic perspective (which had been moving steadily up the lower ranks) movies into the number five position.”

They wrote that although there was some logic to focusing on different skills at different points in your career, “it shows us that there are a set of skills that are critical to you throughout your career.
And if you wait until you’re a top manager to develop a strategic perspective, it will be too late.”

Which skills do you consider the most important for leaders? 

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