A woman in a chambray shirt walks along one side of a conference room table, appearing to explain something to an audience. The woman is speaking while gesturing with her hands. In one hand, she holds a red marker. She has long, tousled brown hair and wears a loose chambray shirt and a gold pendant shaped like an upside-down fan. The three people visible on one side of the conference table are turned in their chairs to watch her. The people on the other side of the table are out of frame, but their open laptops can be seen. The conference room has glass walls that are partially obscured by blinds.
Strong communication skills are vital for those in leadership positions. You can build these skills by practicing speeches or presentations and engaging in active listening. — Getty Images/jacoblund

We all know people who possess seemingly innate leadership skills. They communicate well, are respected by their peers, and navigate challenges with ease. However, many people in leadership positions worked tirelessly to sharpen their talents.

In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Author and Leadership Expert John C. Maxwell wrote, "If you want to be a leader, the good news is that you can do it. Everyone has the potential, but it isn't accomplished overnight. It requires perseverance." Indeed, self-training, experience, mentorship, and formal education can help you become a great leader. Explore five leadership competencies that anyone can learn.

Emotional intelligence

The emotional quotient (EQ), more commonly known as emotional intelligence (EI), is a skill set that helps you be aware of your feelings (and their impact on others). Leaders with high EI can read the room and the individuals in it and use their understanding to influence others. This talent is highly learnable through self-reflection and mindfulness.

Harvard Business School Online's Business Insights Blog highlights four dimensions of emotional intelligence:

  • Self-awareness: The capacity to understand your physical, cognitive, and emotional self.
  • Social awareness: Showing empathy (considering others' perspectives) and recognizing their emotions.
  • Self-management: The ability to manage your feelings and emotions in healthy ways while adapting to changes.
  • Relationship management: Managing conflicts, connecting with others, and communicating clearly.

[Read more: What Is Mindful Leadership?]


Like emotional intelligence, communication is a critical leadership skill that anyone can learn, and it's a talent you work on throughout your life. This ability helps you convey your ideas to people in many formats (verbal, written, visual, and body language). According to Mental Health America, "High EI overlaps with strong interpersonal skills, especially in the areas of conflict management and communication."

Today's leaders use storytelling and active listening to engage employees while motivating them. These same tactics work in many situations, from supervising class trips to organizing events.

Improve your communication by:

  • Using your cell phone to record yourself making a phone call or practicing a public speech.
  • Taking a free or low-cost online communications class from Coursera, Udemy, or a community college.
  • Learning to focus on the person talking and avoid interrupting them, even if you disagree with what they're saying.
  • Exploring multimedia tools for giving presentations, creating sales pitch decks, and hosting online meetings.

Management skills are life skills, and anyone can learn how to manage their time, property, and emergencies.

Learning agility

"An ability to continuously learn is not just a key entrepreneurial skill but also a very valuable life skill," according to Investopedia. When you're in learning mode, you understand that every experience has value. With dedication and a commitment to learning, even introverts can be leaders.

Active learners continually build upon their existing skills by:

  • Being open to and comfortable with receiving feedback.
  • Asking questions and then taking the initiative to expand your knowledge.
  • Exploring different leadership styles to fit the situation.
  • Seeking lessons and experiences outside of your comfort zone.

[Read more: 9 Leadership Training Programs for Managers]

Management skills

Management skills are life skills, and anyone can learn how to manage their time, property, and emergencies. These talents help you make better decisions that can save money and protect investments. In addition, preparation and organization skills enable you to guide others, promote accountability, and delegate tasks.

Discover ways to better manage your:


Successful leaders empower others to accomplish tasks and projects. But you don't have to be an entrepreneur or manager to learn the art of delegation. Indeed, you may need to organize a community event or get your kids to help around the house. In these cases, and many others, knowing which tasks to hand out helps you effectively use your time and accomplish more.

The American Management Association recommended learning how to:

  • Evaluate potential duties and people who can help.
  • Outline expectations and define what success looks like.
  • Provide support and resources.
  • Follow up after completion to assess and improve your process.

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