The Core Leadership Skills You Need in Every Role

Identify the gaps in your leadership journey and develop your full potential by focusing on these 4 skills: self-awareness, communication, influence, and learning agility.

Core Leadership Skills You Need in Every Role - Center for Creative Leadership

Leaders at different levels of an organization face different challenges. But whether you’re an individual contributor, a first-time manager, a senior executive, or somewhere in between, there are 4 leadership skills you need to learn and master.

These are timeless leadership skills needed by leaders throughout every organization, regardless of role, industry, or location. But the way you address each leadership skill, and what you need to learn or emphasize will shift as you move to higher levels and face new challenges. We call these core leadership skills the “Fundamental 4.”

The Core Leadership Skills Needed in Every Career

While there may not be a single definitive leadership skills list, at CCL we believe that every leader, regardless of role, should master these core leadership skills.

The “Fundamental 4” leadership skills are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Communication
  • Influence
  • Learning Agility

1. Self-Awareness. This means simply understanding your strengths and weaknesses, but gaining self-awareness is anything but simple. Self-awareness is one of the critical leadership skills for ongoing and long-term effectiveness as a leader. Here are 4 sure-fire ways to boost your self-awareness.

2. Communication. It’s one of the most basic, across-the-board leadership skills all of us need to develop and refine during our careers. “Communicating information and ideas” is consistently rated among the most important skills for leaders to be successful. Communication is also embedded in a number of other leadership skills and competencies, including “leading employees,” “participative management,” and “building and mending relationships.”

Writing clearly, speaking with clarity, and using active listening skills are all part of the equation. As you move up the career ladder, communication expands to behaviors such as encouraging discussion, building trust, conveying vision and strategic intent, and pulling people along with you. That’s why communication is so important for leaders.

Set your development as a leader on the right track by learning and practicing the 4 fundamental skills of true leadership: self-awareness, learning agility, communication, and influence.

3. Influence. Developing your influencing and leadership skills helps you to communicate your vision or goals, align the efforts of others, and build commitment from people at all levels. Ultimately, influence allows you to get things done and achieve desirable outcomes.

Influence can vary greatly at different levels in the organization. Knowing your stakeholders, or audience, is key. Do you need to influence your boss? Your peers? Direct reports? Customers? Each stakeholder has special concerns and issues, so various groups and individuals will require different approaches for influencing. You’ll want to master the 3 ways to influence people.

Early in your career, or in individual contributor roles, influence is about working effectively with people over whom you have no authority. It requires being able to present logical and compelling arguments and engaging in give-and-take. In senior-level or executive roles, influential leadership skills are focused more on steering long-range objectives, inspiration, and motivation.

4. Learning Agility. You need the ability to constantly be in a learning mode, to value and seek out the lessons of experience. To develop as leaders and as people, we need to be active learners. This involves recognizing when new behaviors, leadership skills, or attitudes are needed and accepting responsibility for developing them.

Learning agility involves learning from mistakes, asking insightful questions, and being open to feedback. It includes learning a new skill quickly, taking advantage of opportunities to learn, and responding well to new situations. For senior leaders, learning agility is also about inspiring learning in others and creating a culture of learning throughout the organization. Developing your learning agility is necessary for building your leadership skills and key for a long-lasting career.

Access Our Webinar!

Watch our webinar, How to Embrace the Key Leadership Skills That Will Make You & Your Organization Future-Ready, and learn how to master the leadership skills that will ready you for future challenges.

Grow Your Core Leadership Skills for Every Role

When you’re thinking about adding the Fundamental 4 to your leadership skills list, keep in mind that each skill should be continuously improved, or “built on as you go.” To be effective, you continue to develop, adapt, and strengthen leadership skills throughout your career. As you gain leadership skills in one area, you’ll find there’s more to learn and practice in taking on new challenges and larger roles.

If you think you’ve “skipped over” any of the Fundamental 4 core leadership skills during your career, you won’t be as effective or fully develop your leadership potential. The good news is that with concerted effort, you can learn and improve the skills you missed out on.

If you can identify gaps or weaknesses in your leadership journey, you have the potential to learn, grow, and change. With self-awareness, communication, influence, and learning agility as the core of your leadership skills development, you can be confident that you’re building for new opportunities and the next level of responsibility because these 4 are core leadership skills needed for everyone and every career stage.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Build your team’s 4 core leadership skills. Explore how our program, Lead 4 Success®, strengthens core leadership skills (the “Fundamental 4”) — self-awareness, learning agility, influence, and communication — that leaders at all levels need to be successful.

November 24, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

Related Content

Lead With That Podcast: What “Quiet Quitting” Can Teach Us About the Importance of Communication & Development

Lead With That: What “Quiet Quitting” Can Teach Us About the Importance of Communication & Development

Instead of selling Patagonia and taking the company public, the brand has been given to a not-for-profit, with the goal of putting any profit not reinvested back into Patagonia towards fighting climate change. In this episode Allison and Ren talk about an organization’s role in doing the right thing, the kind of leaders it takes to do the right thing, some of the spaces in between, and lead with that.

Please update your browser. requires a modern browser for an enhanced and secure user experience. Internet Explorer is no longer supported or recommended by Microsoft. The Center for Creative Leadership recommends that you upgrade to Microsoft Edge or similar.