Leadership skills are developed through experience. As a result, our role when applying for a leadership position is to be able to present examples and stories as evidence of your well-developed leadership abilities.
This starts with the cover letter, where you can demonstrate your leadership capacity through a short anecdote or points about your most outstanding successes (Cote, 2017).
When we move onto our resume, which is more fact-based, leadership can be demonstrated through the listing of the jobs you’ve had that demonstrate your leadership responsibilities.
But it’s the interview where you can flesh this all out, demonstrating stories of your experiences in leading groups, and your overall leadership style.
Below are some examples of leadership skills that you might want to highlight, depending on the job position.
Leadership Skills Examples
Empowerment is instrumental in a leader’s toolbox. This leadership style lays the foundation for personal and professional growth by giving team members the autonomy to make their own decisions. For instance, a manager at a software company might delegate a small project to a newly arrived employee, entrust them with the responsibility, and provide the necessary coaching. This empowerment not only motivates the employee but also instills confidence, thus facilitating their development and underlining the leader’s faith in their capability.
2. Crisis Management
When it comes to Crisis Management, a leader’s ability to respond effectively is crucial. This skill involves prioritizing tasks, making fast, informed decisions, and communicating clearly. During your job interview, try to highlight specific and clear instances in which you were thrown into a crisis, and how you skillfully led your team through it. This might be related to financial difficulties, bad press, product issues, a need to instantly pivot your plans, or a similar scenario. How did you handle it?
Being humble is the mark of a great and wise leader. Leaders who exhibit humility acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers and they are open to learning from others. This enables them to make the most of the expertise of their team, and not have the bluster to think they know everything. Good leaders surround themselves with experts specifically in order to humbly listen to their advice and expertise. Take for example, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Known for his humble demeanor, Nadella routinely credits his success to his team and emphasizes the importance of learning, highlighting that leadership is not about being above everyone else but about creating an environment for everyone to excel.
Read More: Humility Examples
4. Leading by Example
Leading by example means you always demonstrate the work ethic and behaviors expected of the team. If you want your team to show commitment, dedication, and maintain ethical standards, you need to embody these attributes yourself. This sets the workplace culture form above. For instance, Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox, is hailed for her hands-on approach during the company’s turnaround. Her tireless work ethic and refusal to let the company succumb to bankruptcy motivated her employees to mirror her dedication.
Integrity is a fundamental leadership quality. Leaders with integrity hold true to their values and principles, showing consistency between their words and actions. This gains the trust and respect of the people they lead, which can ensure the team follow you through difficult times. Andrea Jung, past CEO of Avon, is recognized for her principled leadership. Despite temptations to cut corners, she always adhered to ethical business practices, reinforcing the importance of integrity in leadership.
Read More: Integrity Examples
6. Emotional Intelligence
A leader’s Emotional Intelligence, which comprises self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal skills, plays a vital role in their effectiveness. A leader displaying high emotional intelligence can connect deeply with their team, fostering an environment of trust and understanding. It means being able to put yourself in the shoes of your team, and think about things from their perspective. A great example is Oprah Winfrey whose empathetic leadership style continues to inspire people worldwide.
Read More: Emotional Intelligence Examples
7. Relationship Building
Building relationships effectively is a prerequisite for a great leader – you need to have a good relationship both with your team members and external stakeholders. Developing strong connections with team members encourages open communication, cooperation, and mutual respect. Think of Shantanu Narayen from Adobe Systems, who consistently tops the ‘Best CEOs’ charts due to the strong rapport he maintains amongst his workforce.
8. Problem-Solving Skills
In leadership, Problem-solving is an invaluable skill. An effective leader must find reasonable and efficient solutions to challenges confronting their team. The leader will need to use their team’s expertise, but also their own intellect, to navigate problems faced. The younger, less crazy, Elon Musk exemplified this. From spearheading SpaceX to leading Tesla, solving complex problems seems to be his modus operandi.
Go Deeper: 39 Problem-Solving Examples
9. Forward Thinking
Forward Thinking is a crucial aspect of effective leadership. While lower-level team members focus on the everyday tasks, leaders are looking out to the horizon, steering the ship through and around future potential challenges or eventualities. As a forward thinker, you are able to keep your team or organization agile in the face of change. This involves a continuous assessment of emerging trends, technological advancements, or shifts in consumer behaviors, and adapting strategies accordingly. In essence, a forward-thinking leader is not just reactive but proactive, staying ahead of the curve and preparing their team or organization for what lies ahead.
Meaningful mentorship loosely weaves into the fabric of effective leadership. Experienced leaders who mentor their subordinates cultivate skill development, increase morale, and foster career advancement. It’s your job as the leader to bring the best out in all your team members and help them move toward their own personal career goals, and see how they synthesize with the goals of the team.
List of Leadership Skills (A to Z)
- Active Listening
- Analytical Thinking
- Appreciative Inquiry
- Balanced Decision-making
- Building Relationships
- Business Acumen
- Change Management
- Coaching and Mentoring
- Communication Skills
- Conflict Resolution
- Continuous Learning
- Crisis Management
- Critical Thinking
- Cross-Functional Collaboration
- Cultural Awareness
- Decision Making
- Decision Making under Pressure
- Developing Talent
- Distributed Team Management
- Emotional Intelligence
- Emotional Stability
- Ethical Leadership
- Feedback Giving and Receiving
- Financial Literacy
- Forward Thinking
- Goal Setting
- Hands-on Leadership
- Identifying Key Stakeholders
- Influencing Others
- Job Design
- Knowledge Management
- Knowledge of the Business
- Leadership by Example
- Listening Skills
- Logical Thinking
- Organizational Skills
- Outcome Orientation
- People Skills
- Performance Management
- Personal Development
- Project Management
- Public Speaking
- Quality Focus
- Recruiting and Hiring
- Relationship Management
- Resource Management
- Results Driven
- Risk Management
- Role Modeling
- Sales Skills
- Sense of Urgency
- Servant Leadership
- Situational Awareness
- Stakeholder Management
- Strategic Planning
- Strategic Thinking
- Systemic Thinking
- Team Building
- Time Management
- Tolerance for Ambiguity
- Trust Building
- Understanding the Big Picture
- Value Orientation
- Visionary Leadership
- Written Communication
Read Also: Strongest Attributes to List on your Resume
How to Demonstrate your Leadership Style
To create a clear and coherent picture for your employer of how you’ll lead the team if you get the job, you need to show your leadership style.
Here are some leadership styles – consider which is yours.
1. Democratic Leadership
For a democratic leadership style, leaders encourage team members to participate in decision-making, fostering an inclusive work environment (Foels et al., 2000).
Generally, it involves releasing some power and control in interests of ensuring everyone’s voice is heard and has an influence, and demonstrates strong belief in the expertise of the team.
Though this leadership style can lead to higher job satisfaction and creativity, it may also lead to slower decision-making and the risk of potential confusion if roles are not clearly defined.
2. Transformational Leadership
Transformational leadership involves leaders inspiring and motivating their teams towards a shared vision (Teetzen et al., 2020).
This style helps everyone see the big picture. The leader is very capable of inspiring others to make big changes by creating a long-term vision.
These leaders encourage personal and professional development and foster a culture of innovation. The risk with this style is that if not paired with clear directives, it can cause confusion.
3. Coaching Style
A leader who adopts the coaching style of leadership is keenly invested in their team members’ personal and professional development. They aid by giving clear directions, providing constructive feedback, and offering fuel for growth.
Leaders who embrace the coaching style view failures not as catastrophic setbacks but as invaluable learning opportunities (Berg & Karlsen, 2016).
This style can lead to employees being more engaged, higher performing, and possessing a plethora of improved skills.
However, there can be downsides if the coach leader does not strike the right balance. Overstepping the line between guiding and micromanaging can demotivate employees and create a counterproductive work environment. For instance, a leader closely guiding an employee through a project, step-by-step, may inadvertently hinder the development of the team member’s problem-solving skills and initiative.
See More: Coaching Style of Leadership Guide
4. Transactional Leadership
Finally, transactional leadership focuses on a system of rewards and punishments (Cote, 2017).
While this can lead to high productivity when the process is straightforward and tasks are clearly defined, creativity and innovation may suffer as employees focus solely on meeting the necessary criteria for rewards.
If none of these styles appeal to you, or you want to find the perfect one, read: 20 Types of Leadership Styles
Ways to Demonstrate Leadership Skills in the Job Search
1. How to Demonstrate Leadership Skills on a Resume
Demonstrating leadership skills on a resume begins with identifying your demonstrable leadership experiences.
You need to outline the positions of responsibility you’ve held, whether in a job, extracurricular activity, or volunteer work.
Focus on roles where you had to motivate, manage, or train a team. Each of these roles should be evidenced with bullet points outlining your duties and the value you brought, such as increase in team efficiency, or demonstrated innovation.
Additionally, you can draw attention to recognitions or awards you’ve received, which speak to your leadership capabilities.
Furthermore, when highlighting your leadership skills in your resume, it’s essential to use action-oriented language. Convey your contributions and impact rather than just listing your responsibilities.
For instance, rather than stating you “led a team,” you might say you “orchestrated a cross-functional squad leading to a 20% increase in revenue.”
This type of language draws a clear line between your leadership and the favorable result, painting a compelling picture of your leadership abilities.
2. How to Demonstrate Leadership Skills on a Cover Letter
In crafting a cover letter, the aim is to weave your leadership skills into your narrative subtly.
The first paragraph can set the stage by introducing yourself, the role you’re applying for, and an overview of why you’re a good fit. From there, seamlessly integrate the illustration of your leadership skills.
For instance, while detailing your experience in a similar role, you might highlight how your leadership led to a major project’s success, or perhaps you spearheaded an initiative that enhanced organizational performance.
The conclusion of the cover letter offers another opportunity to express your leadership skills, linking them to the future.
Here, you can share your enthusiasm for the role, stating why you’re interested in the position, the team, or the company. You can discuss what you hope to bring to the position, focusing on the effects of your leadership.
For example, you could talk about your aim to inspire a culture of continuous improvement, or how you intend to contribute to team growth and development through mentorship.
This not only illustrates your leadership but also shows how you intend to execute it in this new role.
Why are Leadership Skills Important?
Leadership skills serve as the cornerstone of any successful organization or team. They are the driving forces that enable a team or organization to achieve its goals and navigate through various challenges (Klein, Cooke & Wallis, 2013).
With strong leadership skills, leaders can motivate their teams, foster a spirit of cooperation, and create an environment that encourages innovation (Gemeda & Lee, 2020).
Stellar leaders inspire their teams, promoting high productivity levels, and employee satisfaction. They are adept at identifying the strengths in each team member and leveraging those strength for the collective benefit of the team (for instance, a team leader may spot a member’s skill in data analysis and task them with drafting performance metrics to enhance productivity).
Berg, M. E., & Karlsen, J. T. (2016). A study of coaching leadership style practice in projects. Management Research Review, 39(9), 1122–1142.
Cote, R. (2017). A comparison of leadership theories in an organizational environment. International Journal of Business Administration, 8(5), 28. https://doi.org/10.5430/ijba.v8n5p28
Foels, R., Driskell, J. E., Mullen, B., & Salas, E. (2000). The effects of democratic leadership on group member satisfaction: An integration. Small Group Research, 31(6), 676–701. https://doi.org/10.1177/104649640003100603
Gemeda, H. K., & Lee, J. (2020). Leadership styles, work engagement and outcomes among information and communications technology professionals: A cross-national study. Heliyon, 6(4), e03699. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e03699
Klein, A. S., Cooke, R. A. & Wallis, J. (2013). The impact of leadership styles on organizational culture and firm effectiveness: An empirical study. Journal of Management & Organization, 19(3), 241-254.
Teetzen, F., Bürkner, P. C., Gregersen, S., & Vincent-Höper, S. (2022). The mediating effects of work characteristics on the relationship between transformational leadership and employee well-being: A meta-analytic investigation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(5), 3133. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19053133
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]