Critical skills for leaders

A former Navy Seal describes being a good leader as an evolutionary process. In his opinion, a great leader is someone who never stops learning and is willing to continuously improve. Leadership in today’s world requires different skills to the past, he says.


Leadership in today’s modern business landscape requires different skills to what organisations in the past needed. Technology and workforce have changed dramatically and will continue to do so, which also means leaders need to evolve, be flexible and learn new skills all the time. In an article for Forbes, Brent Gleeson, founder and CEO of TakingPoint Leadership and a former Navy Seal, has summarised all essential strategic imperatives for great leadership.

  1. Coaching, not commanding
    Statistics claim that about 34 per cent of an organisation’s employees are truly engaged with the remainder having little or no involvement in a company’s culture, values and vision. Often employees are better in associating themselves with the sub-culture and tone their direct manager sets. That’s why Gleeson rates coaching is an imperative skill for managers. Managers themselves can learn this skill by investing in their own coaching, mentoring and leadership development.
  2. Versatile communication
    The best leaders spend time understanding what motivates each member of their team as well as their preferred communication style, writes Gleeson. This requires a heightened level of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, relationship management and social awareness in his opinion.
  3. Fostering psychological safety
    Psychological safety means that team members feel they can show and employ themselves without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career and instead they feel accepted and respected.
  4. Balance centralised and decentralised controls
    Gleeson distinguishes into centralised and decentralised leadership and decision-making. Centralised decisions support long-term goals, solidarity and consistency in his opinion but stressful situations often demand quick, decentralised decisions.
  5. Create a culture of accountability
    This works both ways: Great leaders take ownership when the team makes mistakes or fails during a project but also allow for praise to reach individual team members.
  6. Build trust from the top and bottom
    This is another aspect that needs to work both ways. A leader must be able to rely on its team and trust its members but employees also should feel they can trust their executives and speak up if necessary.