13 Essential Skills Every Manager Needs to Effectively Lead

Becoming a great leader comes down to one's dedication to continuously adjusting and refining their leadership skills.

Newsweek Expert Forum members share industry insights.
Newsweek Expert Forum members share industry insights. Newsweek Expert Forum

In business, a "leader" is typically defined as the person in charge. This can range from executives at the top down to the managers who preside over individual departments or teams. However, having an official leader position isn't what makes someone a good–or even an effective leader.

Great leaders are those who are able to balance the big picture of the company mission with the finer details of how employees contribute to the achievement of business goals. Developing that balance means leaders need to actively acquire and refine their skills. As experts, Newsweek Expert Forum members know that refining those skills is an ongoing process, so below, they each share one skill every manager needs to effectively lead and coach employees.

1. The Ability to See Others' Perspectives

Every manager needs to be able to put themselves in the shoes of their employees. If you can understand the employee's perception of reality, you can understand what motivates them and what success looks like from their perspective. Once you know where your employee is coming from, you can better align their needs with the skills and experiences needed to achieve company objectives. - Margie Kiesel, Avaneer Health

2. Listening

Excellent managers know how to create space, paraphrase and effectively structure a conversation that encourages self-reflection. Supporting employees rather than solving problems for them requires a completely different skill set. This skill is one that includes the ability to maintain presence and validate instead of immediately responding with an answer or solution and then quickly moving on. - Leah Marone, Corporate Wellness Consultant

3. Curiosity

Curiosity breeds the best conversations! When we're curious, our mindsets are open and interested in the ideas and thoughts of others. It's like a state of wonder where we look for what's possible versus what's "right." It can be challenging for leaders to let go of control and switch to empowering employees to find their own path to what's expected. Curiosity allows an appropriate level of control. - Rana DeBoer, Keystone Group International

4. The Ability to Ask Open-Ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions and then really listening to the answers is the single most important skill any leader can learn. One of the greatest leaders I've ever worked for said this to me once: "My job is to listen to what everyone has to say and, if needed, to make decisions." Leadership is not about knowing the answer; it's about creating great teams that can find the answers themselves. - Alistair Fulton, Semtech

5. Communication

One skill every manager needs is effective communication. Being able to communicate your thoughts and needs in a positive constructive way makes all the difference. - Donna Marie Cozine, Consult DMC

6. The Ability to Adapt

Leaders must be able to adjust their management style in response to different situations. For example, during the Covid crisis, I had to transition from my usual coaching leadership style to a more decisive, immediate and centralized approach in order to manage all the information and make decisions at the speed that was necessary. And of course, I had to remember to switch back. - Alexa Kimball, Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess

7. Time Management

I don't want to underestimate the value of being a good listener and an empathetic leader, but when we can't find time for our team in our calendars or when we don't have time for a one-on-one conversation for weeks, then we have a problem. - Krisztina Veres, Veres Career Consulting

8. Consistency

If you are swinging from one extreme to the next, it creates confusion with your staff. If you are laying down the law one minute and then never holding anyone accountable to what you declared, you are doing yourself and your employees a disservice. - Chris Tompkins, The Go! Agency

9. Emotional Intelligence

One of the most valuable skills a manager can have to effectively lead and coach employees, which also happens to have a high ROI for the company, is emotional intelligence. We know from the research that emotional intelligence in the workplace improves efficiency, improves customer service, improves productivity and makes for better leaders. - Lisa Lundy, Lisa A Lundy

10. The Ability to Lead With Empathy

Managers who tap into their emotional intelligence and take an empathetic approach to leadership are a driving force in helping employees perform at their best and feel fulfilled. Managers who master this skill will facilitate an open and collaborative environment where employees are motivated to show up as they are, positively impacting the organization. - Faisal Pandit, Panasonic Connect North America

11. The Ability to Give Direct Feedback

While it's human nature to try and avoid difficult or uncomfortable conversations, as a manager, it's critical to provide honest and direct feedback to your employees. Although this may at times not be the most pleasant conversation to have, providing this feedback gives employees the best opportunity to address any issues and achieve long-term success in their careers! - Israel Tannenbaum, Withum

12. Patience

Every manager should know how to exercise patience. Project planning and task prioritizing take time to produce good results. While doing things quickly might bring short-term benefits, communicating patience as a guiding vision for a company avoids employee burnout. This is crucial to improving crisis response through careful thinking. - Jacob Mathison, Mathison Projects Inc

13. The Ability to Authentically Connect

Gone are the days where our teams show up and blindly follow. They want to feel connected, inspired and passionate about their work. To lead and to coach, you must know how to connect with them on an individual level and understand what motivates them, what challenges them, what they are afraid of and how to help them move through that. Great leadership starts with connection. - Jennifer Thompson, National Association of Social Workers New Jersey/Delaware

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
What's this?
Content labeled as the Expert Forum is produced and managed by Newsweek Expert Forum, a fee based, invitation only membership community. The opinions expressed in this content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Newsweek or the Newsweek Expert Forum.