What Are Leadership Skills, and Why Are They Important?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what leadership skills are with examples, why they are important, who needs them, and how you can further develop these essential skills.

[Featured Image]:  Manager, wearing a blue jacket and printed top, sitting on a desk, preparing to communicate with team members.

Leadership skills are the qualities individuals in influential roles possess to direct and complete tasks, support initiatives, create a sense of unity within a team, and empower others. Learn about these key leadership skills and how you can benefit from developing them.

What is meant by leadership skills?

Leadership skills include the abilities or strengths shown by people in management roles that aid in guiding and encouraging a group of people and their team toward achieving a common goal or set of goals. These skill sets include communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, decision-making, and more.

Examples of leadership skills

Take a detailed look at some popular leadership qualities companies may value and look for in a candidate.


When you work in a leadership position, you must be able to clearly explain everything from expectations to goals and tasks. It is also important to establish open communication between yourself and your team members. Not only does creating an environment of open communication promote cohesiveness as a team, but it often encourages an atmosphere of transparency. Excellent communication considers not only what is being communicated, but how it is being communicated.

As an effective communicator, you do more than just clearly verbalize expectations. You also incorporate active listening, nonverbal communication, presentation skills, and engaging public speaking.


Negotiation involves two or more parties engaging in a conversation to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties. As a result, you and the person you are negotiating with may reach a formal agreement, such as a contract or a less formal verbal agreement. When used as a leadership skill, negotiation can foster a sense of fairness and equality, allowing all parties to be heard. Employees and coworkers may be more likely to feel understood when conflicts are handled with negotiation.

Effective negotiation involves understanding the interests of all involved parties and working to reach a solution that satisfies each one.

Conflict resolution

Compelling leaders understand how to avoid disputes and have the ability to resolve them quickly. Ideally, as a good leader, you should be able to maintain your composure and make thoughtful decisions when handling disagreements. A great example of conflict resolution is a human resources (HR) representative actively listening while working to help a manager and their subordinate settle conflict.


As an adaptable leader, you adjust your behavior in response to situational changes. You are resilient when things don't go as expected and recover quickly from setbacks by viewing them as an opportunity to grow. Showing adaptability in leadership involves being flexible and adjusting to changing conditions and environments.

Critical thinking

Analyzing information to fully comprehend an issue or topic is the act of critical thinking. The steps of the critical thinking process often entail gathering facts and data, posing deliberate queries, and examining potential answers. For instance, if you work in HR and must settle a dispute between two coworkers, using critical thinking skills can be helpful in determining the nature of the conflict and the appropriate course of action. Critical thinking is an important component of decision-making.


Effective leaders make decisions that benefit themselves, their team members, clients, stakeholders, and organizations. Using critical thinking skills in decision-making allows you as a leader to identify problems and develop solutions advantageous to your business and your employees. Decision-making by leaders must always be fair and objective and involve the use of appropriate language when communicating.


Effective problem solvers in leadership have the ability to foresee issues in the workplace, define the problem, identify their causes, develop a plan to remedy the problem, and learn from the problem to avoid future issues. Problem-solving requires strong communication skills and respect for all parties involved. Viewing and presenting issues as opportunities can benefit leaders and staff alike. An example of this would be a decline in social media engagement viewed as an opportunity to increase social media presence rather than a problem.

Relationship building

The general nature of leadership roles revolves around people. Without understanding the people they are guiding, leaders cannot effectively lead. The ability to forge bonds and establish communities is necessary for an effective leader. A study conducted on relationships in the workplace by Olivet University shows that employees tend to be happier in their workplace when they have a degree of nonwork relationship with their superiors [1].

Time management

Time management involves planning and regulating how much time to devote to different tasks. Leaders who manage time effectively may accomplish more in less time, feel less stressed, and succeed in their careers [2]. Proper time management by leadership members affords leaders more time to invest in their team.

Reliability and trust

Trust is the cornerstone of a successful organization. Trust, or belief in another person's skills, integrity, and character, is frequently thought of as something built upon in personal relationships.

Leadership develops best through reliability. Leaders must ensure their words and deeds are consistent if they want to be trusted. If those you lead cannot trust you to keep your word, they will lose faith in you rapidly.


A creative mindset is open, not closed or rigid, and produces ideas and solutions that are both significant and effective. By encouraging a team of people to solve problems creatively, leaders provide the opportunity to develop goods and services that set the team apart from rivals, creating a competitive advantage. Creative leaders also foster an innovative culture by encouraging teams to showcase ingenuity as a unit.

Strategic approach

Leaders must think strategically and critically when making difficult decisions. Effective leadership involves making well-considered and critically-analyzed decisions to lead teams to success. Leaders who are successful will think before they act, or in other words, have a strategic plan before taking action. The time it takes to devise a strategy depends on the problem or decision. A good leader devotes the necessary time to strategy development.


Self-awareness in leadership involves understanding your own personality, behaviors, and motivations and then considering how these traits and qualities influence your leadership skills. Self-reflection can be a powerful tool all on its own. Self-awareness and reflection can help you realize what you offer to your job as a leader and where you need improvement. Self-awareness entails identifying where you excel and where you should grow—and when your leadership excels, your company's productivity tends to follow.

Who needs leadership skills?

Whether a student, teacher, project manager, or CEO, anyone in a role that involves influence over others and decision-making can benefit from strong leadership skills. These skills can be especially helpful for early-career professionals, newly promoted leaders, and start-up leaders. Leadership skills are essential in roles that don’t even involve leading others as well. These are skills that also help you to exude confidence and may be beneficial in progressing your career into leadership positions.

What makes an effective leader?

While possessing leadership skills can make a leader effective, certain workplace skills or qualities also lend to effectiveness. Effective leaders are respectful, empathetic, patient, motivational, and willing to be held accountable.

When you make your team feel respected, cared for, and motivated, you are more likely to be successful in leading your team.


How to develop leadership skills

To succeed as a leader, it’s essential to commit to continued learning and plan personal growth and development. Becoming an effective leader involves gaining leadership skills and fine-tuning key workplace skills. You can accomplish these goals by receiving coaching or mentoring, gaining experience, taking courses, and enrolling in leadership certificate programs.

Coaching and mentoring

Leadership coaches work with leaders to help optimize their abilities and effectively manage a team. Leadership coaches and mentors act as supportive advisors who help those being coached better their workplace relationships and performance on the job.

Mentorship is more of a collaborative relationship between a successful leader and a leader in training. Mentor/mentee relationships are often more personal and can offer accountability and help the mentee make beneficial connections, whereby the mentor acts as an advisor.


Leadership experience can come in many forms. From playing on sports teams to participating in social groups and volunteering, you can gain experience in leadership in almost any aspect of life. While these experiences may not directly relate to your career, the skills gained from them can last a lifetime.

Courses and training 

For a more formal method of gaining leadership skills, enroll in training courses. This is a highly effective way to develop new abilities, enhance existing ones, and establish the foundation for a successful career in leadership.


In addition to courses and training, it is also an option to pursue leadership certifications. Through these programs, you can learn valuable leadership skills and earn a credential for your resume ato increase job prospects in your field.

Next steps

Looking to gain or improve your current set of leadership skills? Consider taking online courses on Coursera from world-class organizations and educators that can help you enhance your career. Take the first step and enroll in one of these programs today:

  • Connected Leadership: Enhance your capacity to make the most of life, create your own leadership toolkit, and gain an understanding of the strength and complexity of system thinking.

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Article sources


Olivet Nazarene University. “Study Explores Manager and Employee Relationships, https://online.olivet.edu/news/study-explores-manager-and-employee-relationships.” Accessed March 1, 2023.

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