As a leader, it’s your job to help those who report to you succeed and achieve their goals. But being a great leader isn’t something that is necessarily ingrained in everyone. In fact, for most of us, leadership is just like any other skill – it has to be learned and developed over time. If you’re not among the lucky few who are natural-born leaders, here are five critical skills you’ll want to add to your toolbox in order to help guide your team in the right direction.


Think about great leaders in the military. One of the biggest things that makes them so effective is their loyalty to their troops and their willingness to do whatever it takes to protect them. That same concept can be applied in the workplace to a lesser degree. When your direct reports know they can trust you and that you’ll always have their back, they’ll repay you with fierce loyalty and their best effort.


Even the smartest people in the world make mistakes from time to time. What separates a good leader from a great one is the willingness to admit when they’re wrong and change their course accordingly. Having too much pride and being too stubborn to change your mind won’t win over the hearts and minds of your team. To the contrary, being human and showing vulnerability every now and then will earn you respect, which will get you much further in the long run.


This one may seem pretty straightforward, but scientific research indicates that the higher one climbs on the corporate ladder, the more difficult it is to feel empathetic. So, if you’ve made your way to the C-suite (or you’ve got your eye on it), being proactive about this step will serve you well. Be intentional about how you interact with and respond to others. When someone says something that frustrates you, take a mental step back and ask yourself what might be motivating them. Seeing things from the perspective of others will help you to understand the root causes of your team’s problems so you can better solve them.


People can naturally sense problems within an organization. They’ll look to you to level with them. If you routinely withhold information, it’ll breed a sense of distrust that can erode your ability to lead them effectively. It’s imperative that you are honest and transparent with your team, even when the news isn’t necessarily positive. If there’s a problem, communicate that it exists and let them know what’s being done to correct it.


As a leader, it’s your job to provide feedback to your employees. But while some of that feedback will inevitably by negative, be careful not to forget the positives too. It’s easy to fall into a routine where you only interact with an employee when they’ve done something wrong. This practice will eventually kill morale, which will impact the entire team’s performance. Remember to also show your support by recognizing a job well done. This will motivate them and may also inspire others to follow suit.

Being a leader isn’t always easy. By deliberately practicing the five critical skills listed above, you should be better able to manage your team, guiding them – and ultimately your organization as a whole – in the right direction.