8 Tips for Developing Your Leadership Skills

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn more about effective leadership and how to develop yourself as a leader as you explore tips for developing leadership skills in any organization.

[Featured Image]:  Manager, wearing a blue sweater, utilizing leadership skills during a meeting with team members.

If you've ever described someone as a natural leader, you may believe some people are born with an innate ability to inspire others and make decisions. Research suggests that your genes can determine the personality traits that can help you be successful in leadership roles, but this research also supports the idea that leaders are made, not born [1]. This is good news if you see yourself working in a leadership position, as it means you can learn and develop practical leadership skills.

Empower teams with access to world-class content from 325+ top companies and universities

Watch now

What makes an effective leader?

Influential leaders know how to inspire people and support them to work toward goals. Although they often have different leadership styles, they share some common characteristics. If you think about the best leaders you've ever worked with, you've likely noticed the following traits in them:

  • Clear expectations

  • Compassion

  • Consistency

  • Encouragement

  • Organization

  • Trust

  • Vision

Successful leaders are resilient, have exceptional decision-making skills, and hold themselves accountable for their actions. Ultimately, the people they lead trust them to do the right thing for the good of the group.

Effective leadership: The fundamental 4

The Fundamental 4 describes four essential skills for leaders: communication, influence, learning agility, and self-awareness. These skills span industries, locations, and positions, and most successful leaders know how to develop and leverage these skills in their daily work. Here's a closer look at these core skills:


Successful leaders can express and explain ideas so that all team members know each project's goals, expectations, and tasks. They are active listeners and know how to express themselves clearly when they speak or write. In many ways, communication skills lay the foundation for the rest of the core leadership skills and go a long way toward establishing and maintaining trust in the organization.


Effective leaders influence and motivate the people they work with to meet and exceed goals. Their ability to influence stems from the relationships they build with others. They take the time to understand the people they're working with and what inspires them. With this knowledge, they can present rationales for their ideas and show team members how they stand to benefit from their work. 

Learning agility

As a leader, you should continue seeking learning opportunities — even when you reach an executive position. Learning comes in many forms, including professional development courses, certificates, and degrees. However, leaders also look to their experiences — both successes and failures — as opportunities to examine their behavior, knowledge, and skills and adapt them as needed.


Leaders take time to understand what motivates them to work in their field and pursue leadership roles. They know their strengths and weaknesses and spend time reflecting on their experiences in life and at work to help them learn their purpose. This self-awareness allows them to set goals and seek growth opportunities to improve their leadership skills.

Benchmark your talent with global skill insights

See how millions of learners in 100 countries are strengthening critical skills.

Global Skills Report

How to develop yourself as a leader: 8 tips

No matter where you are in your leadership journey, you can challenge yourself to grow and hone your skills. Use the following tips to set goals, explore strategies, and evaluate your progress.

1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding your leadership strengths and weaknesses can help you identify the leadership skills you want to develop and improve. Universities and organizations offer a variety of free and paid inventories that can help you figure out your leadership style, strengths, and areas of improvement. You can find many of these tools online.

2. Understand leadership styles.

Knowing your leadership style can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, which may be a good starting point when trying to figure them out. For example, if you have an authoritarian leadership style, you may find it easy to make decisions but may need to learn how to improve your listening skills. If you prefer a delegative style, you like giving your team plenty of freedom and may want to brush up on your decision-making or relationship-building skills.

Read more: 8 Management Styles in Business

3. Target specific skills.

After you identify your areas of strength and weakness, you can choose the specific leadership skills you want to target. With a particular skill in mind, you can set a goal, develop a plan to meet it, and monitor your progress. Here are some specific leadership skills to consider developing:

4. Expand your network.

Observation is a powerful tool for developing leadership skills. By expanding your network to create more opportunities to watch great leaders in action, you'll be able to see how these leaders tackle challenges, make decisions, solve problems, and develop strategies to help their teams succeed. Start by connecting with leaders currently working in your organization and expand your network by attending industry events and interacting with leaders on social media sites. 

5. Get a coach or mentor.

The world's greatest athletes have coaches who help them train and achieve their goals, and a coaching relationship also works well in a business environment. Your coach can help you evaluate your leadership skills, plans, and goals. Coaches are often senior or retired staff members who understand your industry and have the expertise to guide your professional development. Some organizations have formal coaching programs specifically designed for developing leaders, but you also can meet informally with a mentor.

6. Read and research.

Effective leaders are lifelong learners who seek out learning opportunities and keep up with the latest industry research and trends. Read books. Sign up for seminars. Take online classes. In doing so, you're investing in yourself. When starting out, look for broad leadership topics like communication or conflict resolution. Then you can explore more specialized areas like negotiating global contracts.

7. Take on leadership roles in your current position.

You can start practicing leadership skills before you have an official leadership role. Seek out opportunities to try out what you're learning. This can be through a stretch assignment or a project that gets you out of your comfort zone. Other options are working in a new department or geographical location to practice using the new strategies you're learning. Start small, reflect on your experiences, and identify which techniques are working and which you need to refine.

8. Practice.

Thinking like a scientist as you practice your newfound leadership skills may be helpful. Each time you try a new technique or strategy — whether it's a big project or small interaction with a coworker — pay attention to how well it works and how others respond. Over time, you'll be more aware of what works best for you so you can add them to your leadership tool kit.

Become a leader today

You can start building your leadership skills today by signing up for a leadership course or certification program, like Leading People and Teams from the University of Michigan or Strategic Leadership and Management from the University of Illinois. Looking to develop new leaders within your company? Upskill your employees to excel in the digital economy with Coursera for Business.

Develop leaders from within your workforce

Let's work together to build lasting leadership skills for your organization.

Learn more

Article sources

  1. Center for Creative Leadership. “Are Leaders Born or Made?" Accessed October 19, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.