Unlock your potential: Team leadership skills for success

a woman smiling with her arms around two smiling colleagues shows teal leadership skills

Honing your people management skills will future proof your career. It's about embodying the qualities that define exceptional leaders. Think about a leader you look up to. What is it about them that makes them great? Is it the way they’re able to make everyone on their team feel empowered and valued? Is it their incredible knack for forging compromises that make all parties happy?

Regardless of team size, leaders need advanced people management skills. F4S offers insights into the motivations that drive great leaders. Our technology also provides information on the strengths and weaknesses of teams. This enables more effective leadership.

Table of contents
What are team leadership skills?
What are the most effective team leadership skills?
Leadership skills for running effective team meetings
3 examples of team leadership excellence
How to develop team leadership skills
Challenges in developing team leadership skills
Best practices and tips for effective leaders
Different team leadership styles
Mastering the Art of Team Leadership: Key Takeaways
Which team leadership skills do you want to hone?
Frequently asked questions

What are team leadership skills?

Team leadership skills guide and inspire a team toward achieving common goals. They include communication, the ability to motivate, conflict resolution, decision-making, and collaboration. A skilled team leader builds a positive and cohesive team culture.

They delegate tasks and adapt to the evolving needs of the team and the organization. These skills are vital for maximizing productivity. They also maintain morale and drive success in both small and large teams.

A leader is inspiring others with a speech so the team hits their goal and increases productivity

What are the most effective team leadership skills?

Effective team leadership skills are essential for guiding a group to succeed. A skilled team leader possesses qualities and abilities that go beyond managing tasks. These skills encompass communication, empathy, adaptability, and the capacity to inspire and motivate.  

Here, we delve into the 8 people management skills that are the hallmark of top-tier leaders.

1. Emotional Intelligence (EQ): important for influencing

Emotional intelligence means recognizing and managing both your own and other people’s emotions. It doesn't equate to weakness, you can be a strong leader with high emotional intelligence. Research shows high EQ leaders enhance employee retention. A 2018 study revealed that 70% of employees would stay in a company longer if their leaders exhibit high EQ.1

Cultivating emotional intelligence starts with self-awareness. Your emotions tell you when something’s not right and you need to change it. They also reveal when something is going well and is worth celebrating. Paying attention to your team's body language, tone, and facial expressions is essential. Asking members about their feelings is a valuable step towards providing meaningful support.

Being the leader doesn’t mean you should command every conversation. One of the most important things a manager can do is to listen to their team. Practice nonverbal communication and active listening. This means staying in the moment when someone is talking to you. It means focusing on what they’re saying without jumping forward in your head to the moment you get to respond.

When it comes to emotional intelligence, there are many benefits to practicing gratitude. It improves your mood but also reinforces ethical behavior. But, it's essential to not only feel gratitude but express it. This is especially important in the workplace because many employees feel unappreciated.

2. Empathy: The heart of effective leadership

Empathy entails understanding and sharing other people’s feelings. It fosters a ‘walk in their shoes’ perspective. 93% of employees favor empathetic employers, but only 72% perceive their company to be that way. This is a stark contrast to 91% of CEOs' beliefs.2

For managers, empathy is crucial as team members may turn to them with problems. Responding with empathy creates a safe space for open communication and trust. A lack of empathy can stifle dialogue and erode trust.This damages working relationships.

Empathy becomes most impactful when it's not only a sentiment. It needs to translate into meaningful actions and support. O.C. Tanner's 2024 Global Culture Report found that 58% of employees believed their leaders failed to act on feedback.3

An empathetic leader holds the power to influence the longevity of team members. The O.C. Tanner study also indicated that employees plan on staying 2.5 years longer when leaders model empathy.

3. Effective communication: finding the balance

In 2018 the Economist Intelligence Unit found that a common cause of difficulty in teams is different communication styles.4 As a manager, adapting your approach to suit the individual you're addressing is helpful.

Team leadership involves striking a balance between neutral and affective communication. F4S's people analytics research identified 4 categories for preferred communication channels. These are seeing, hearing, reading and doing. For example, to gain the support of someone with a reading preference, use reports, documents and reviews.

Determining each team member's communication style is time-consuming and demanding. Fast track that process by inviting your team to take our free F4S assessment.

4. Decision-making and initiation skills

Decision-making and initiation skills are pivotal in effective leadership. They embody the energy to take action, start tasks, and think on your feet. This proactive quality recognizes that taking action is more valuable than excessive planning. Those high in initiation often emerge as leaders and pioneers. They also tend to exhibit resilience and unwavering energy.

Research from the CEO Genome Project identified 4 key behaviors in successful leaders. The ability to make fast decisions was a particular stand out.

Harvard Business Review researched what sets successful CEOs apart.5

Their study found that high-performing CEOs not only demonstrate decision-making skills, but decisiveness. They make prompt choices. And they make them with conviction, even in uncertain, data-limited, or unfamiliar situations.

Those who find decision-making hard can define goals and values as guiding principles. Creating a decision-making framework, like a reusable template, can save time and stress.

5. Conflict resolution and problem-solving skills

When juggling the diverse needs of many people within a team, conflicts are bound to pop up. As a manager, mastering the art of conflict resolution is crucial. But it doesn't always mean being the sole problem-solver.

Sometimes, problem-solving means assuming the role of a mediator. This means creating a haven for respectful disagreements to take place. It requires mediating discussions through thoughtful questions. But stepping back to allow the involved parties to find their own solutions.

Successful conflict resolution often hinges on compromise. This is a skill that ties into the broader spectrum of people management.

As a team manager, negotiation skills are your trusted ally. You won't always be able to fulfill every team member's desires completely. So, the ability to broker compromises that leave all parties content is paramount.

6. Strategic vision for progress and success

A strategic vision is vital for team leaders. Your strategic vision is like the North star, illuminating the path to success. But it must consider commercial aspects of the business.

A profit-focused vision ensures a team's efforts benefit the organization's finances. It encourages team members to think about resource allocation, cost-efficiency, and revenue generation. A well-defined vision ensures everyone is working towards a common goal. It ensures a team understands not just what they need to do, but why it matters.

Setting goals is the next critical step. These goals should break down an organization’s larger vision into actionable steps. This makes the journey more manageable and measurable. Reaching goals can provide a sense of accomplishment and act as motivators for the team. KPIs offer a tangible way to measure progress and success.

7. Delegation and setting priorities

Delegating and prioritizing are fundamental elements of effective leadership. If you fail to delegate, you're likely to find yourself overwhelmed. This leads to burnout, reduced productivity, and reduced ability to focus. You have a team for a reason.

To collaborate and share the workload, leverage the diverse skills within the entire team.

Opting for the I’ll just do it myself route, may be a sign that you lack trust in your team's abilities. Effective leadership requires a foundation of trust. Nurturing this involves open communication and shared responsibilities. It also means giving team members autonomy to excel in their areas of expertise.

Trust is the cornerstone of successful delegation. A reluctance to delegate can arise from a lack of awareness of your team members' strengths. As a leader, it's your responsibility to know your team members on a deeper level. Understanding their unique skills, interests, and experience informs decisions. It also helps you build a stronger, more cohesive team.

Effective prioritization enables you to focus on what is urgent and important. It requires delegation of less critical tasks to your team. This prevents burnout and ensures high-impact initiatives receive the attention they deserve.

8. Motivation and inspiration

Motivating and inspiring your team is a critical aspect of effective people management. What makes it challenging is that motivation is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It's as diverse as the individuals on your team. Everyone is unique in what drives them, so you need to adapt your methods to each person. Understanding their motivation, be it recognition, growth, or money, is crucial.

F4S research has uncovered 48 motivations that influence how people function. This spans communication, decision-making, and their stance on rules. Let's consider the ‘use’ motivation influencing project initiation.

Individuals driven by a strong 'use' motivation tend towards action. This is displayed by a keenness to dive into a project without an extensive plan. Advising someone with a 'use' motivation to craft a plan or organize a focus group might not resonate. Instead, using words such as ‘take action’ will ignite enthusiasm and drive.

To delve deeper into workplace motivations, the F4S analytics tool is a great resource. It reveals the hidden motivations that drive your team. It also illuminates the language and behaviors needed to unlock their full potential.

Create goals aligned with each team member's strengths and aspirations using this information. Motivations change over time so checking in with your team members is important. Leading by example, offering feedback, listening and problem-solving will motivate your team. Enthusiasm and adaptability create an environment where everyone wants to give their best.

FS team dashboard shows team motivations
F4S team dashboard

Leadership skills for running effective team meetings

Effective team meetings hinge on team leader skills that guide discussions and interactions. Meetings without a clear agenda are costly so preparation is key. Team leaders should set objectives, write agendas, and gather resources before meetings.

Download our 5 team meeting agenda examples for high-impact meetings.

Time management is crucial. Ensure the meeting respects participant schedules and allocate appropriate time to agenda items. Engaging team members is fundamental. An atmosphere of active participation ensures everyone’s opinion is heard. Leaders need to convey ideas while encouraging expression among participants.

Facilitation keeps meetings on track and focuses the team on intended outcomes. Problem-solving and conflict resolution are useful skills for addressing issues if they arise. Decision-making means guiding a team to consensus or making a final call when needed. Follow-up ensures documentation of action items and responsibilities, to maintain accountability and progress.

Adaptability is important. Meetings evolve, and leaders must respond to the team's needs. Seeking post-meeting feedback demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement. It solidifies a leader's dedication to holding effective team meetings. This contributes to team success and goal attainment.

3 examples of team leadership excellence

Case study 1: Melanie Perkins, Founder and CEO, Canva

"Leadership is about creating an environment where people can do their best work." – Melanie Perkins

Melanie Perkins’ visionary leadership has been pivotal in shaping Canva's success. A true innovator, she pushes the boundaries of what Canva offers. Perkins' leadership style is empowering. She fosters a culture where every team member's voice matters. This has built a diverse and inclusive environment that nurtures creativity and collaboration. As part of this, Melanie implemented F4S across the organization in 2017. It has evolved into a fundamental leadership asset within Canva. F4S bolsters the distinct talents of individuals and teams. It promotes diversity and inclusivity. And it drives Canva towards ambitious goals.

Case study 2: Steve Jobs, Apple

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs

Innovative and visionary, Steve Jobs’ leadership style was notable for its demanding nature. Renowned for exacting standards and unrelenting demands, Jobs was never satisfied with mediocrity. He pushed his employees to achieve their very best. His direct communication style meant he didn't sugarcoat feedback or hide opinions. While this approach could be challenging for his teams, it ensured clarity and a sense of purpose. It transformed Apple from the brink of failure into a tech giant. His visionary style drove teams to raise the bar. This led to products like the iMac and iPhone that revolutionized entire industries. Another facet of Jobs' leadership was his emphasis on an entire product ecosystem. He didn't only focus on individual products, he saw the importance of how they fit together. As seen in Apple's interconnected ecosystem of devices, software, and services.

Case study 3: Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo

“I wouldn’t ask nobody to do something I would do myself...” – Indra Nooyi

Taking a softer approach, characterized by visionary thinking and a commitment to inclusivity. Her "Performance with Purpose" initiative aligned business with social and environmental goals. Her strategic leadership was evident as she diversified PepsiCo's product offerings. This was to address the growing demand for healthier and sustainable options. She also championed an inclusive work culture that encouraged diverse perspectives. Effective communication skills allowed Nooyi to convey PepsiCo's commitment to sustainability. It led to the company gaining support from stakeholders. Her unwavering focus on long-term objectives, contributed to PepsiCo's growth and sustainability. Nooyi's inclusive leadership left a lasting impact. It boosted the company's reputation and aided its competitiveness.

How to develop team leadership skills

Developing team leadership skills is essential for building a thriving and efficient workplace.

To start, employees need to assess their current leadership abilities. F4S's self-assessment tools offer insights into strengths and areas for improvement. Employers can then provide training and workshops to develop employees' leadership skills.

F4S provides coaching with practical insights, and guidance to improve leadership skills.

Accelerate understanding between teams

Breadth

An illustration of a woman holding a circle object on her hand.

Motivated by macro big picture thinking, these teammates value moving quickly to connect dots between abstract ideas to 'get the gist' of things.

Chart showing rage from Average, High and Ver High.

vs

Depth

An illustration of a woman holding and using a protractor on her right hand.

These teammates value being concrete and specific, getting into details to understand the steps or tasks required.

Chart showing rage from Average, High and Ver High.

See the different work styles in your team

Take the free assessment & set up your team

Udemy is an online learning platform that offers affordable courses on team leadership. This includes their Team Leader Fundamentals for New and Developing Team Leaders. For technical team leaders, adDev is a non-profit organization providing affordable training.

And Coursera offers courses from top universities around the world. One such course is Leading Teams for Innovation from Stanford University. Employers can curate a list of recommended leadership books, blogs and podcasts. This helps employees access valuable information for their leadership development.

Challenges in developing team leadership skills

Team leadership presents a myriad of challenges. This ranges from navigating complex dynamics to fostering effective collaboration. Team leaders often grapple with obstacles that demand keen problem-solving and communication.

Team conflict is a common challenge. Conflict disrupts productivity and hinders team cohesion. As a team leader, successfully managing conflict is crucial. This involves creating an atmosphere where team members feel safe to express concerns. Active listening is paramount in achieving this. It allows leaders to grasp the root of conflicts and show empathy towards team members. To mitigate conflicts, leaders need to hone conflict resolution skills. They need to promote compromise, negotiation, and common ground. Establishing ground rules for communication and conflict resolution serves as a preventive measure. In cases where conflicts persist, leaders may consider third-party mediation. This may be HR representatives or professional mediators, to find solutions.

Resistance to change is another common challenge. It can arise when leaders introduce new procedures, people or systems within the team. To overcome this obstacle, leaders need to use effective communication. Explain the rationale behind the changes and outline the potential benefits. Involving team members in decision-making empowers them and increases buy-in. Leaders can provide support by offering training and resources to help teams adapt. They should also lead by example, showcasing their commitment to the changes.

Tracking change progress and seeking team feedback is an ongoing process. But it allows leaders to adjust as needed. This facilitates smoother transitions and reinforces team leadership skills. Developing these skills is a journey that requires adaptability and continuous self-improvement.

Best practices and tips for effective leaders

Being an effective team leader is a multifaceted role demanding adaptability and critical skills. The rise of remote and hybrid teams poses new challenges. Team leaders should remember a few fundamental best practices and essential skills to understand the elements of high-performance team dynamics.

Clear Communication: Communication is the cornerstone of leadership. It is essential to communicate with your team often and with transparency. Tailor your communication style to accommodate all team members, regardless of their location. Encourage open and honest communication within the team.

Building Trust: Trust is the bedrock of every successful team. Display trust in your team's abilities and aim to foster trust among team members. Building trust is particularly critical in remote and virtual teams.

Set Clear Expectations: Ensure everyone understands their objectives and roles. Every team member should know their responsibilities. This is regardless of where they work or their background.

Adapting to Diversity: Embrace diversity and inclusion within your team. Acknowledge and appreciate the unique perspectives and contributions of everyone. Promote a culture of respect and equality within the team.

Flexibility: Recognize the importance of adaptability in your leadership approach. Different situations may need different strategies. This is especially true in remote teams where time zones and work preferences vary.

Recognition and Feedback: Recognize efforts through constructive acknowledgment and feedback. Provide constructive feedback to help team members improve.

Problem-Solving: Be proactive in addressing challenges and conflicts. Encourage the team to find solutions and promote a problem-solving mindset.

Technology and Tools: Make use of tech and collaboration tools to manage remote teams. Ensure team members have access to these tools and receive adequate training.

Self-Care: Lead by example when it comes to well-being. Take care of your own physical and mental health. This encourages a culture of wellness, work-life balance and mental health support.

Continuous Learning: Keep up with the latest leadership and management trends. Encourage team members to engage in continuous learning and skill development.

Different team leadership styles

Leadership styles come in various flavors. Each fits different team dynamics and objectives. Your leadership style shifts focus from your inherent traits to your observable behaviors. It is based on how you interact with your team, environments, and priorities.

This supports the Behavioral Theory of Leadership that leadership is a learned skill. It challenges the notion that leaders are born. It purports that individuals can develop these skills by studying specific leadership behaviors.

  • Autocratic leadership features centralized decision-making, offering efficient execution but sometimes stifling creativity.
  • Democratic leadership promotes collaboration through team participation in decisions.
  • Bureaucratic leadership relies on established rules, ensuring consistency but limiting adaptability.
  • Transactional leadership employs structured exchanges to motivate based on performance.
  • Transformational leadership inspires innovation and change by sharing a compelling vision.
  • Laissez-faire leadership grants autonomy but demands self-discipline.
  • Charismatic leadership relies on magnetic appeal, rallying teams behind a shared vision.
  • Servant leadership prioritizes the needs of team members.
  • Coach-style leadership focuses on personal development.
  • Strategic leadership provides direction to fulfill the strategic goals of an organization.
  • Situational leadership adapts to changing circumstances and adjusts the approach as needed.

Not sure which category describes you best? F4S provides free evidence-based insights to enable you to identify your motivations.

Mastering the Art of Team Leadership: Key Takeaways

  • Effective team leadership skills are crucial for maintaining high performance and morale.
  • Adapting to diverse team dynamics and a situational leadership style enhance leadership effectiveness.
  • Recognizing and managing emotions in oneself and others is vital for leadership.
  • High EQ leaders contribute to greater employee retention.
  • Understanding the feelings of team members fosters open communication and trust.
  • Tailoring communication styles to individual team members is essential.
  • Understanding preferred communication channels improves collaboration.
  • Successful leaders should be effective decision makers and they need a clear decision-making framework to streamline the process.
  • Managing conflicts and fostering negotiation skills is important. Effective negotiation skills work to achieve compromises that benefit all parties.
  • Leaders should have a well-defined strategic vision that aligns with organizational goals.
  • Delegation and effective prioritization are fundamental. Trusting team members and understanding their strengths are key.
  • Understanding individual motivations and adapting leadership methods is crucial.
  • Acknowledging and expressing gratitude motivates team members.
  • Effective team meetings need clear objectives through preparation and time management. They also need engagement, effective facilitation, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
  • Challenges include managing team conflicts and addressing resistance to change. Effective communication, understanding motivations, and problem-solving are key in overcoming these challenges.
  • Strong leadership is a learnable skill.
  • F4S offers insights into the motivations that drive great leaders. This develops effective leadership skills.

Which team leadership skills do you want to hone?

We’d be surprised if anyone reading this article is nailing all the people management skills right now (but if you are, kudos to you!). The reality is, continuous, self-improvement is vital for every successful leader.

So, select one skill from this list and work on improving it today.

Need help assessing your strengths and blind spots as a leader? Take our free F4S assessment and set up your team.

Frequently asked questions

Can leadership abilities be taught?

Yes, people in leadership are often promoted without the required leadership development training that leads to success in their roles. But just because a leader is underperforming in their role doesn't mean they don't have leadership potential. With constructive feedback and leadership training, many find or develop leadership qualities they never knew they had.

What are some examples of soft skills required in leadership positions?

When it comes to skill sets to help you become an effective leader, soft skills, not technical, are often what will get you there.

Here are some soft skills that business leaders can learn through training, self-reflection, persistence or leadership development:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • The ability to maintain eye contact
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • The ability to give honest feedback
  • Resilience during difficult times
  • Being aware of leadership blind spots
  • Time management skills
  • The ability to galvanize a team around a common goal
  • Goal setting
  • The ability to make difficult decisions
  • Strong communication skills
  • Effective listening

How do strong leaders build a positive work environment?

A positive working environment is something that doesn't just happen. It is honed, crafted and curated by effective leadership. Building a positive working environment should be a key component of any business strategy.  It makes team members happier to commit to their daily routine, makes difficult tasks easier, and increases job satisfaction. In short, it is one of the critical skills needed for successful leadership.

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1. Korn Ferry, 2018,The Essentials 2018: Emotional Intelligence, Korn Ferry, https://www.kornferry.com/insights/this-week-in-leadership/essentials-year-end-2018-emotional-intelligence

2. Businesssolver, 2019 State Of Workplace Empathy, businesssolver, https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/378546/empathy-2019/2019%20Empathy%20Exec%20Summary/businessolver-2019-workplace-empathy-executive-summary.pdf

3. OC Tanner, 2023, Global Culture Report 2024, OC Tanner, https://www.octanner.com/global-culture-report

4. The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2018, Communication barriers in the modern workplace, The Economist, https://impact.economist.com/perspectives/sites/default/files/EIU_Lucidchart-Communication%20barriers%20in%20the%20modern%20workplace.pdf

5. Lytkina Botelho E, Rosenkoetter Powell K, Kincaid s and Wang D, 2017, What sets successful CEOs apart, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2017/05/what-sets-successful-ceos-apart

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