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Employability Skills

What are leadership skills?

The ability to influence and motivate others to achieve a common purpose or goal. 
Many people associate leadership with a directive, autocratic approach with one person dictating the work to others, or being ‘the boss’. There are however, many different styles and approaches to leadership, so think broadly when considering examples you might have or exploring opportunities to develop these skills. Leadership is a complex issue and one it is worth reading further about. Understanding what good leadership is will also help you identify examples from your own life which you may not previously have considered. 

Why do employers want leadership skills?

Many employers recruit graduates with a view to them becoming future leaders of the organisation, so actively seek people with leadership skills or potential. Even in organisations where this is not necessarily the long-term goal, leadership skills will be useful when working as part of a team or when supervising others. 

Leadership involves...

  • Being able to motivate & direct others
  • Taking responsibility for the direction & actions of a team
  • Setting objectives. 
  • Organising & motivating others. 
  • Taking the initiative 
  • Persevering when things are not working out. 
  • Taking a positive attitude to frustration/failure. 
  • Accepting responsibility for mistakes/wrong decisions. 
  • Being flexible: prepared to adapt goals in the light of changing situations.

How to become a leader

  • Use initiative to act on opportunities. Become a leader before other people view you as one. Healthy organisations reward those who take the lead, not just those with formal management roles.
  • Take responsibility for own objectives: set priorities. 
  • Display a "can do" attitude even in demanding situations. Try to solve problems, rather than to pass them on to other people. First answer is ‘yes, I’ll make it happen’.
  • "Go the extra mile" when asked to do tasks. Go beyond your job description. Do work that gets you noticed.
  • Show enthusiasm: this will be noticed and you will eventually be rewarded.
  • Take ownership of problems: anticipate potential problems, take pre-emptive action and act quickly to resolve problems.
  • Introduce improvements to the way things are done. 
  • Develop innovative practices. Value innovative thinking.
  • Learn new skills that will enhance capability.
  • Common sense is not common!

Examples of how leadership skills can be developed or evidenced

  • Team sports.
  • Clubs or student societies (e.g. motivating by taking a lead in problem-solving, clarifying tasks and facilitating).
  • Coaching and mentoring.
  • Incidences demonstrating a key role in a group context.
  • Taking responsibility for a specific project in work or other context.