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20 Key Elements for Leadership Skills

Updated on March 27, 2012

Leadership skills

I was recently in conversation with a Major from the British Army.

We were discussing the elements that go to make good leaders.

Our purpose was to decide upon the contents of a leadership course.

We brainstormed the 20 key elements that would be needed in a discussion of leadership.

Here they are, for your information:

Setting goals

Goal focus is the most important skill to learn. Identify the target: know what you want to achieve.

If you know what you want to achieve you can begin to communicate that to the team.

If you do not know what you want, you are forced to dither, which is not a sign of leadership.


You may have a clear goal but be unable to communicate it to others.

The goal must be clearly communicated to all who need to know.

The great leaders are also the great communicators.

Churchill, Gandhi, Napoleon, ML King were all master communicators.

They knew how to affect others with the correct use of words, tone and body language.

Accurate language

Accuracy is a subset of communication. A lack of accuracy was the cause of the fatal "charge of the light brigade".

Errors in clarity will cost you.

Accurate use of language will save you time, money and effort.

Learn how to improve the clarity of the spoken and written word.


Influencing is a subset of communication.

Peoples actions are directed by their thoughts.

Is it possible to use language to influence the thoughts of others?

Of course!

So, if you can influence their thoughts, you can influence their actions.

Learn how to influence the minds of others.

Language of a leader

Inspiration and motivation are the lifeblood of leadership.

Nelson could inspire his soldiers to incredible feats.

So can all great leaders.

They learned to use their communication skills to motivate and inspire others.

Making decisions

Be decisive.

Make good decisions quickly.

Make good decisions based on logical evaluations of facts- not guesses.

Indecision will cause a loss of effectiveness.

When you have the facts, make the decision.

Accurate assessment of information

To what degree is your information: Relevant, important and reliable?

If you become bogged down by considering information that is Irrelevant, trivial, or unreliable, you will slow down to the point of failure.

Accelerated learning

Having a good memory for facts, figures, names and faces is an important attribute to cultivate.

Alexander was said to have known the name of everyone in his army.

Forgetting details can easily cost you credibility and effectiveness.

Did you know that you can learn special techniques to increase recall of new information?

Listening skills

Hitler did not listen to news he did not like.

So he lost his war.

Listen for the things from which you can profit.

Listen with intent to understand.

Planning ahead

Having a goal is not enough.

You must learn how to build plans that are likely to work.

The lack of a sound plan is one thing that will ruin your chances.

It will turn your goals into fantasies.


Planning includes prioritisation.

With limited resources; you cannot do everything at the same time.

So you have to put them into order.

Learn how to order items into the correct sequence.

Problem solving

Problems represent the obstacles that stand between you and your goals.

In order to achieve your goals, you must overcome the problems that confront you.

That is done in two ways:

1. Analysis

2. Synthesis.

Learn how to analyse the problem and synthesise the best solution.

Handling difficult people

You have to work with people who do not agree with you.

Do you know how to handle the intelligent, articulate nuisance that you have to work with?

If not, internal dissention can ruin team harmony and effectiveness.

Conflict management

You will need to deal with the conflict without losing your cool. Hot-headedness can cause you to lose respect and will cause you to fail.

You must be able to handle conflict with a calm and logical mind.

Fools learn when they must.

Wise people learn when they can. (Duke of Wellington)

Duke of Wellington

Duke of Wellington
Duke of Wellington

Handling performance issues

Some of your people will occasionally perform badly. You will need to correct them and put them back on track; doing that skilfully will increase your effectiveness.

If you make correction sound like an insult, you may cause a backlash that is more difficult than the original problem.

How to put the non performer back on track.

From above, it is obvious that you should learn how to give constructive criticism:

Learn how to criticise another's work without de-motivating nor antagonising him-her.


Learn when too negotiate and when not to: Learn how to "find the middle ground" without giving too much away.

It is important to know in your own mind what is "NON negotiable"

And equally you should be clear about what you are willing to give away in order to get what you want in return.

Emotional management

Leadership demands first that you master yourself.

Fear, indecision and self doubt will stop you being a good leader.

Cultivate the qualities of courage, mental focus and determination.

Especially - learn how to manage your emotions when in a hostile situation.

Positive attitude training

When you have controlled your own mind, set about inspiring others.

Teach them to stay emotionally strong by radiating confidence.


Run through this list and check yourself against it.

What areas do you feel you could improve upon?

In which areas do you perform well , and could capitalise upon?

Corporate Coach Group

We all have to manage others, and ourselves irrespective of our position. Corporate Coach Group provide management training programmes including:

The emphasis is on helping you increase your confidence and develop your personal effectiveness.

Let me know what you think

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    • profile image

      keithrodger 7 weeks ago

      Hey Chris,

      Are there any course you recommend to learn leadership skills? I found these guys:

      I think I may take their course - any thoughts? Your help would be greatly appreciated!


    • profile image

      Tony 2 years ago

    • profile image

      oclthree 4 years ago

      Good Lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Excellent breakdown of leadership elements.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      who is the true leaders in the philippines

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago


    • chrisfarmer lm profile image

      chrisfarmer lm 4 years ago

      @kevinfream lm: Thanks Kevin - what would you suggest as a more appropriate category?

    • kevinfream lm profile image

      kevinfream lm 4 years ago

      This lens would probably get a lot more traffic if it wasn't mis-categorized under Ethics.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Leadership is influence, without these you are alone

    • profile image

      shashikantdabral 5 years ago

      Comprehensive List

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great list. Especially love the quotation on 'fools learning'.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Being a great leader is not only being great yourself but to expose what is great about others who work for you. great knowledge that is shared with us. thanks

    • GaryHollingsworth profile image

      GaryHollingsworth 5 years ago

      Excellent breakdown of leadership qualities

    • TedBong profile image

      TedBong 5 years ago

      Very true that we must be able to lead ourselves before we can lead others. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great tools

    • MindPowerProofs1 profile image

      MindPowerProofs1 5 years ago

      Excellent lens. Being a great leader is not only being great yourself but to expose what is great about others who work for you. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      mashaAllah great really ......

    • profile image

      mdeakub 5 years ago

      Thanks for the excellent post. It's a very good & informative one.

      For a few  years, I am learning & working on the topic, Transformational leadership. Quite a lot of leaders in the human history have demonstrated exceptional success in transforming human life, work, economy, philosophy and above all well-being. I have recently analyzing some transformational leaders, their successes, traits and the secrets of their being of such kind of leaders.

      My blog on this topic is Transformational leaders ~ 3 Greats . Here I have described the leadership of 3 great leaders. This list should be a bigger even. I have selected them not based on any category but on total impact of their leadership on their followers and the society or the community or even the world they lived in.

    • profile image

      agent009 5 years ago

      I made a note of your list. I think it's going to help me be better organized. Do you follow it with older projects to revamp them, or just with new ones?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      good one

    • profile image

      ChrisDiamond 6 years ago

      Short and to the point! Great lens for "come & go," in the fast paced world we are living today!

      Thanks for sharing, +1 like on this one ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      coaching and mentoring ( and from our experience...learning to let go..develop and deletgate!)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      The issue with today's leadership is not knowing it, however its more about not doing it and if we are doing it how accurately are we doing it. The 20 key elements are just not crucial but vital and often it considered to be a check list and what lies next is disaster.

      Knowing and preaching and practicing are 3 different things and when knit closely, they just make wonders.

    • profile image

      kimsmith79 7 years ago

      Thank you for the great research. Your points are well stated. I'd like to learn more on this. I just took a course in attend transforming learning at The Hay Group and loved it. I look forward to reading more information you have posted.

    • guyfarmer profile image

      guyfarmer 7 years ago

      Great insights Chris. I've found that leadership is frequently about getting out of the way and letting our people shine. When we let go of ego and the need to dominate we open ourselves up to learning about the talents and abilities of our employees and how we can help them succeed. It's a slightly different leadership paradigm, but it helps employees feel great about themselves and it helps us lead with less effort.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Very Very excellent , useful. Good points to improve our leadership Skills :-)

    • profile image

      digitalplatypus 8 years ago

      Excellent, excellent description of leadership qualities. Very concise, too. Most people think that leadership comes naturally from just having a position of authority. I've seem plenty of people in authority, though, who had no leadership skills -- and plenty of people who were excellent leaders even though they had no formal position of authority. The ability to lead is a skill, and you've done a good job of encapsulating what goes into that skill.

    • profile image

      Dean Caporella 8 years ago

      Wow...this is the kind of information that needs to be bottled and given to every network marketer in the world. You have really hit home some great leadership requirements. Well done.

    • profile image

      LearningGermanFast 8 years ago

      People who think they are leaders are a dime a dozen. Real leaders though are diamonds in the rough. You have covered the requirements beautifully. I wonder how many people reading them will recognize even a fraction of them in themselves.

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      Yahoo-Web-Hosting 8 years ago

      great list of leadership qualities

    • Squidrocket profile image

      Squidrocket 8 years ago

      The things you have mentioned are indeed very important - you may want to add in NLP as a way to improve leader and communication - its causing quite a stir among management circles!

    • profile image

      redondo 8 years ago

      This information is extremely interesting! As a manager in a business I can really improve my skills by following the advice above. I really like the pictures of some of the most powerful leaders in history.Nice job! Keep up the good work!

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      meganinlife 8 years ago

      Very interesting point of view about Leadership Skills. I have never thought that the good leader needs to be perfect in so many fields. Thanks for the article.

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      samuelbrownf1 8 years ago

      Good lens. I agree with all that You have written. All these skills are very important for good leadership. One missing and almost all is ruined!