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The 28 Most Important Leadership Competencies to Master

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

Leadership skills are essential for individual success. However - not all leaders and companies leaders are created equal. Successful companies require great leaders and great leaders possess a unique set of skills that sets them apart from the rest.

If you’re a CEO or an HR leader looking to improve the leadership abilities in your organization, or you yourself are looking for ways to become an even more effective leader, it’s critical to understand what these key leadership competencies are and how to develop them.

The philosophy and practice of effective leadership is a layered, segmented, and complex concept including cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, business skills, and strategic skills.

Through leadership development programs, assessments, benchmarking, training, and measurement current leaders and high potentials have the ability to become great.

In this article, we’ll discuss the 28 most important leadership competencies that every leader must master in order to thrive in any business, industry, and organizational culture.

What are Leadership Competencies?

Leadership competencies aka “leadership skills” are the fundamental skills that are vital to lead others in an organization successfully. Leadership competencies such as emotional intelligence, confidence, delegation, and every important aspect of interpersonal relationships in the work environment.

How these abilities are used can depend on circumstances such as role and level of authority.

The most successful leaders grow their leadership competencies as they grow in terms of role, complexities, and challenges and are constantly growing, adapting and evolving in different environments.

When broken down and analyzed effective leaders are competent in the four areas of leadership:

  • Leading self
  • Leading others
  • Leading the organization
  • Leading implementation

Within these four categories, there are 28 crucial leadership competencies that are core to any leadership development program.

Improving Leadership Skills is a Crucial Part of Organizational Success

Leadership competencies are essential to organizational success for a number of reasons.

First, good leaders can steer their organizations in the right direction and help them reach their goals.

Second, strong leadership can create a positive work culture that is motivating and encourages employees to do their best.

Finally, effective leadership can make an organization more agile and responsive to changes in the market or environment such as turnover, talent pipeline, and smooth transition of generational leadership.

These leadership skills are critical for any organization looking to be successful.

Why is Leadership Development Important?

Maintaining strong leadership bench and developing high potentials to be ready as the next generation of leaders is absolutely essential to continue high-performance organizations’ success.

Great leaders inspire and motivate employees, set the tone for the workplace, make critical decisions that impact the company, and help to achieve team & company goals faster.

The competition amongst a-list organizations for this top-tier talent is fierce. Not only is there a fight for current senior leaders, but for high potentials as well.

Companies need to invest in leadership development programs and provide options for current and aspiring leaders to develop their leadership competencies.

The main goal of any leadership development investment should be to accelerate leaders learning trajectory.

Effective leadership development saves time and money by helping leaders develop critical skills faster to accelerate performance and avoid costly mistakes.

What are the Key Leadership Competencies Needed to Enrich Careers,

Companies & Ensure Success?

While some teach 3, 6, 7, or even 12 core leadership competencies, our program C4L focuses on research. The research shows that every leader should master 28 core leadership skills and competencies distributed across four categories:

  • Leading Self
  • Leading Others
  • Leading the Organization
  • Leading Implementation

Within each, there are several subcategories that effective leadership requires. Business skills, business strategy, and more are targeted by the specific categories of proficiency. This competency model is the golden standard. This is reflected in its ubiquitous use by all serious corporations and government organizations, including the USDA and the Coast Guard.

Leading Self

These are the leadership skills that surround the leader’s soft skills. They surround social intelligence and the underlying ability to apply leadership while handling their own emotions.

Emotional Control

Emotional control is about emotional intelligence and leadership presence. For a leader to be respected, they must maintain a respectful and professional demeanor. This includes situations that are highly stressful.


Flexibility is about being open to changes. As a matter of skill development, it means learning how to adapt quickly to sudden changes, poor conditions, and all kinds of unexpected difficulties. This is key because leadership is tested under pressure, which an effective leader will certainly experience at some point.


Integrity is about emotional intelligence, building trust, and issues such as only agreeing to commitments that can be followed through on. Understanding ethics and fairness falls under this category.


Another one of the skills that are key when leaders are under pressure. Resilience is about maintaining focus, emotional strength, and leadership position under pressure or during significant changes.

Self Confidence

This specifically focuses on showing confidence in your leadership without appearing arrogant.

Executive Presence

Executive presence describes the authenticity, leadership brand, and organizational competency of a good leader. Leaders are taught to behave in a way that commands respect.

Work-life Balance

Leadership positions can naturally lead to a situation where work-life balances are upset. This “leading self” competency covers maintaining a work- life balance as a trusted leader.

Leading Others

”Leading others” refers directly to the interpersonal relationships in the workplace. It is about applying leadership directly. Leaders must sometimes intervene in interpersonal conflicts, for example. These are the leadership skill requirements used when handling team members while maintaining an executive presence.


Assertiveness in leadership terms is one of the interpersonal skills that will often be relied on. Leaders must know how to present their views and make requests directly and openly. They need to be seen with higher perceived fairness as well, not seeming unfair to any party being led.

Conflict Resolution

People can fall into conflicts for a large number of reasons. Good leaders must understand conflict resolution. Conflicts must be solved in a positive, constructive, and professional manner.

Influencing Others

Good leaders get others to buy into their viewpoint and gain consensus. It’s an important skill that requires social intelligence to gain cooperation toward organizational goals.


Leaders must seek to understand the viewpoints of others. By fostering self- awareness and patience, leaders can maintain professional relationships with open dialogue and without intimidation.

Partnering & Relationship Building

Interpersonal skills and networking are required of good leaders. This leadership competency is about collaboration across different functions and between different departments.


Teamwork is about fostering collaboration and trust between team members. It’s important for executives as well as human resource management. Its development will require problem-solving skills and interpersonal skills.

Verbal Communication

Leaders must communicate clearly and keep their audiences engaged. Verbal communication is a category that covers everything from conflict management to business skills. This competency is built one-on-one and with audiences of various sizes, all of whom must be kept engaged.

Leading the Organization

These key leadership competencies include those that are required to meet business objectives and steer the organization in the right direction. It thus requires creative leadership development, awareness, and business acumen.

Creativity & Innovation

The competencies that are needed to develop and apply creative solutions.


Showing initiative and taking appropriate risks is part of competency models that include senior managers. A good leader must know how to take calculated risks.

External Awareness

A successful leader identifies and keeps up the pace with trends that affect business performance. Leaders that are engaged in business strategy keep an eye on economic, political, and social trends.

Organization Awareness

Understanding organizational competency models means having a clear and realistic understanding of the organization’s realities. It’s one of the strategic skills employed by competent senior managers.

Service Motivation

This is another one of the strategic skills that focuses on organizational culture. Leadership is directed at maintaining or improving the quality of service provided.

Strategic Thinking

Strategic skills are also leadership competencies. Leaders must formulate strategies with the long-term vision of the organization in mind. For development purposes, this means instilling long-term thinking.

Leading Implementation

These leadership competencies are those that cover the implementation of processes at organizational levels.

Coaching & Mentoring

A part of any leader’s job may eventually be identifying and coaching future leaders. It’s one of the essential leadership competencies for an organization’s continuity. Promoting leaders requires having leaders proficient in coaching and mentoring.

Customer Focus

Responding to any form of customer feedback and demonstrating a commitment to customer satisfaction. This competency focuses on implementing measures aimed at better customer experiences.


Delegating responsibilities is perhaps the competency most readily recognizable with business leadership. But as a leadership skill, it’s also about how you identify strengths, trust others, and avoid micromanaging. Delegation is about trust, encouraging initiative, and autonomy.


Effectiveness covers how leaders use their position to actively ensure projects are completed on time and according to budgetary and other restraints.

Monitoring Performance

Leaders are responsible for accountability and fostering superior performance. They must hold themselves and others accountable, taking a competency-based approach to eliminate substandard performance.

Planning & Organizing

Effective leadership involves establishing effective systems. Future business trends and other challenges are met by leaders who proficiently allocate their time and resources.


Leading implementation requires attention to detail. This leadership competency covers such attention to detail while keeping the big picture in mind.

Master The Leadership Skills Needed To Succeed

Naturally - each leader is going to be great at certain things and lack competency in other areas.

The leadership skills strataplex is layered and complex and in order to hone in and improve a target organization’s leadership competencies, programs must be tailored to streamline the development of specific, individualized needs, and based on a leadership development process that requires ongoing learning experiences based on a quantifiable framework of examination, benchmarking, assessment, learning, and improvement.

The improvement and mastery of leadership competency is an ongoing and neverending process, but the payoff is immense once essential leadership competencies are established leader by leader, across all organizational levels.

How to Improve Leadership Competencies

Let’s go over the practical steps of instituting a leadership development initiative with the goal of enhancing the most important leadership competencies across the leadership team for an entire organization. See below:


Leadership development starts with an assessment. The first step to strengthening leadership and achieving better leadership competencies is to assess each individual’s starting point.

Every leader has different strengths and weaknesses based on their personality, experiences, and skillset that influence their leadership abilities and how these abilities are utilized.

Based on their own personal assessment, leaders will work on developing leadership competencies based on their own unique needs.


By completing their leadership assessments, organizational leaders and high potentials can identify their own strengths, weaknesses, and areas of opportunity for improvement in a standardized, quantifiable manner.

With a standardized competency model and personalized input, you can then create a plan to develop each leader’s new leadership competencies training effectively.

In addition, pre-assessment and benchmarking provide a baseline for post- program comparison as the individual develops their abilities.

Leadership Development Training

Whether the training program is virtual, classroom or hybrid consider the individual’s role and responsibilities. Whatever modality of learning is used, it’s critical that the content is directly linked and can be applied to the person’s job.

Real learning and long-term impact for the individual occur when the leadership development program takes place over time, learning can be applied immediately, and application is further reinforced as part of the development program.

Leadership Coaching

Leadership coaching and working directly 1 on 1 with a coach allows leaders to reflect on past decisions, performance, and outcomes and master the competencies needed for their roles: developing communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

Our executive coaches can work directly with organizational leaders to help improve their skills and reflect on company and performance challenges they may be facing.


To understand the acceleration and improvement of a leader’s competencies, the efforts and outcomes need to be measured.

Measuring critical metrics like pre and post-scores of individual leadership development competencies, and achievement of team or company objectives that can be linked to leadership development program efficacy is super important and must be tracked.


In this age of global leadership, large organizations often have more challenging leadership needs. Issues such as cultural awareness, global mindsets, and others are increasingly in demand. But the development of these global leadership competencies requires a foundation in the 28 important leadership competencies that are the subject of this article.

With a structured leadership development program, your staff from high potentials to executives to human resource management, gain the leadership skills they need to enable your organization with a competitive advantage.

Contact Skyline G for more information on how to prepare your leaders and company to take on any challenge by accelerating their leadership development trajectory.

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