Leadership Skills vs. Leadership Traits: With Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Being a successful leader often involves having certain skills and traits. Effective leadership requires being able to create teams, motivate people and provide expert advice to help your group achieve common goals. Understanding the differences between leadership skills and leadership traits can help you work towards becoming an effective and goal-achieving leader. In this article, we define what leadership skills vs. leadership traits are and provide examples of the two to help you become a well-rounded professional.

Understanding the difference between leadership skills vs. leadership traits

To become an effective leader in your profession, it's important to know the difference between leadership skills vs. leadership traits. While people often use both terms interchangeably, they're different. Natural leaders often succeed at leading other people because of their inherent leadership qualities. Conversely, some people become effective leaders by learning from others and developing core skills to achieve results and organise people for common objectives. This is the primary difference between these two terms.

Related: 10 Types of Leadership Styles

What are leadership skills?

Leadership skills are the combination of soft and hard skills a professional requires to organise and leverage the skills, experience and talent of other people to achieve common goals. There are several leadership skills you can develop to increase your ability to influence people and get them to support your vision and initiatives. Having these skills not only allows you to create a strong team that collaborates effectively to deliver results, but it also helps you motivate your group, provide feedback and give them the opportunity to develop their leadership skills.

Related:

  • Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

  • Why Is Leadership Training Important? (With Benefits)

Examples of important leadership skills

There are several leadership skills you can develop as a professional, but here are some of the most important ones:

Communication

Communication is one of the most essential skills of a quality leader because it allows you to use other leadership skills more effectively. Leaders require excellent communication skills to build teams. Communication helps you interview and assess candidates to identify the ones that are an ideal fit for your culture and goals. Part of your job as a leader involves providing instruction, delegating duties and authority, providing feedback and assessing performance. All these activities require excellent written and verbal communication skills.

Your job may also require you to make presentations, work with vendors, collaborate with clients and other department heads and update senior management of project progress. Doing these effectively requires being an eloquent communicator.

Team building

Another important skill of leaders is the ability to build strong teams that can help them achieve goals. Building a team requires several skills, including the ability to identify people with the right professional skills and personality traits for your group dynamics. It also requires having excellent communication and interpersonal skills, experience with managing people and organising activities and effective collaboration.

To excel as a leader, it's important to know how to delegate effectively, including being able to pair individuals with the tasks that align with their interests, skills and experiences. Active listening and the ability to collect and accept feedback are also essential to building a strong team that's loyal and supportive.

Strategy

Strategy involves creating a blueprint to help a team or an organisation achieve specific goals in the long term and outlining the steps for accomplishing those objectives. It also requires several high-level skills, including critical thinking, research, forecasting, planning, project management and data analysis. As a leader, one way to attain a high level in your field is to have the skills for strategic planning, as it's vital for solving complex problems and helping an organisation achieve its long-term goals and vision.

Decision making

Effective leadership requires being able to make sound decisions quickly. While some people are natural leaders, making the right decision most of the time often requires practice and experience. Successful leaders typically have a strong sense of judgement and don't often require all the information about a situation to make the right decisions. This allows them to take initiative, leverage their strengths and identify opportunities before competitors.

Like all leadership qualities, being decisive requires a combination of skills, such as problem-solving, research, critical analysis, planning, goal setting and collaboration. It also requires certain personal qualities, such as risk-taking, confidence and accountability.

Related: Change Leadership Skills: Definition and Examples

Problem-solving

An important duty of a leader is to solve problems, and this makes problem-solving a vital skill for effective leadership. Solving problems also involves leveraging several competencies and qualities. Before you can solve a problem, it's essential to first identify, diagnose and understand it. That way, you know the causes of the issue and the steps required to resolve it. Diagnosing and resolving problems requires critical thinking skills, analytical skills and research.

It also involves leveraging the experience, training and skills of your team, making sound decisions at the right time and effective organisation, planning and management. For example, when you're the project manager for a project, you may have the tasks of selecting the right individuals for your team, vetting vendors and providing resources on time. You may also anticipate risks and uncertainties that can cause delays, which can help you work with potential problems as they arise, helping you stay within budget and on schedule.

Mentorship and teaching

Effective leadership also requires the ability to teach and mentor other people. It also involves developing your team's talent and skills and making them well-rounded professionals ready for leadership positions. Doing this effectively requires motivating your group, delegating duties and responsibilities and trusting in their abilities to deliver results and achieve peak performance.

Teaching requires you to be an expert in your field to provide new insights to help your team solve problems. Leaders also provide feedback, recognise and reward excellence and develop a genuine personal relationship with their team members. This helps them identify the key strengths and weaknesses of each person to match them to the right tasks and help them achieve optimal performance.

Related: How to Improve Leadership Skills: Guideline and Tips

What are leadership traits?

Leadership traits are personal attributes required to become an effective leader. These traits are often natural qualities a person possesses based on their upbringing and environment, but you can learn and acquire them through experience. Having leadership traits can make it easier to maximise the effectiveness of your leadership skills.

Related: What is Leadership? (With Key Elements of Leadership)

Examples of leadership traits

Here are examples of leadership traits:

Confidence

Confidence is an important leadership trait. Being confident allows the leader to lead others with authority and make difficult decisions during times of uncertainty. Confidence allows leaders to inspire their teams to support their vision and aspirations and dedicate themselves to achieving set goals, even when there's no guarantee of success.

Accountability

It's essential for leaders to be accountable and take responsibility for their decisions and the results of their teams. While the leader ensures their team adheres to organisational rules and guidelines, they also support them to succeed. When results are favourable, the best leaders don't take credit for the outcomes. Rather, they recognise the effort of their team and reward them for their achievement. If results are unfavourable, successful leaders don't blame their teams for failure. They take responsibility and assess the situation to ensure improved outcomes in the future.

Self-motivation

To excel as a leader, it's important for you to be self-motivated. Self-motivation is vital in a leadership role because your group or organisation looks up to you for direction, guidance and inspiration. This means the leader is someone who always challenges themselves, their team and the organisation to meet and exceed expectations. If you want your team to continue to grow, it's essential for you to have a high level of motivation to achieve better results and help the organisation actualise its mission and vision.

People-oriented

Successful leaders have a natural ability for building relationships. This allows them to assemble teams, motivate people and persuade them to support their vision and aspiration. They also use this trait to make people feel special and indispensable to team efforts, which convinces individuals to commit to group tasks and help the team achieve results.

Integrity

Integrity involves practising honesty consistently. Being a person of integrity is vital for leading because people often follow the example of their leaders. Adhering to the rules and regulations of the company and managing people with the highest level of moral and ethical principles can help leaders gain the respect of their teams and colleagues. By holding yourself up to a high standard, you can indirectly motivate your team to be accountable and stay committed to the values of the organisation.

Related: What Is Integrity? Definition, Attributes and Examples

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a key attribute of successful leaders because it helps them engage effectively with diverse audiences. Being emotionally intelligent helps you view things from other people's perspectives, which is essential for collective decision-making. This quality can also help prevent and manage conflict, as it helps you empathise with people and manage your interactions in a way that eliminates or reduces misunderstanding.

Explore more articles