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    Dec 09, 2022    |   Camille Labrie

The Top 5 Leadership Skills for 2023

leader providing employees with feedback

4 minute read

Written by Shawn Bakker, Psychologist

Leadership is hard. Managing the interaction of people with people, and the intersection of people and tasks requires a multifaceted set of skills. However, our work indicates that some of these skills are more impactful than others. Here are the top 5 skills for effective leadership in 2023. 

1. Asking for Feedback

Good leaders are self-aware. They notice the impact they have on people and projects, whether it is good or bad, and adjust accordingly. Poor leaders do not. The critical skill for maintaining self-awareness is asking for and acting on feedback. Research from Zegner/Folkman showed that leaders who ranked in the bottom 10% of asking for feedback were rated at the 15th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness. On the other hand, leaders who ranked in the top 10% were rated at the 86th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness.

Leaders who ask for feedback scale

How to solicit useful feedback: 

  • Ask for one recommendation or suggestion on how you can improve one specific thing. You are looking for concrete and actionable ideas. Asking “how am I doing?” is too broad.
  • Say thanks. Express your appreciation for the feedback. Do not argue with it, or make excuses for why you previously acted the way you did.
  • Take action. If you ask for feedback, you must do something with it. 
  • Make it a habit. The more frequently you ask for feedback the easier it becomes for others to give it, and for you to receive it.

2. Involving Others 

Effective leaders are inclusive. They shift from mobilizing the elite few to the diverse many. Research by McKinsey found that the top three reasons employees reported for quitting during the pandemic were not feeling valued by the organization, not feeling valued by their manager, and not having a sense of belonging. 

Good leaders are facilitators, not directors. As such they make sure employees feel valued by sharing problem-solving and decision-making whenever possible. They involve others in generating ideas and making change happen. Then they recognize employees for their contributions. 

3. Developing People 

Over the last two years the number of people rating career development as a key value has increased by 50%. Considerably more people are expressing a strong desire to learn new skills, be challenged, and move forward in their career. Good leaders have conversations with their direct reports about growth opportunities. To do this effectively, they need to know their people. 

Questions Effective Leaders Ask: 

  • What are you passionate about? 
  • Do you think that your talents, interests and skills are being fully utilized? 
  • What professional or career opportunities are you excited about pursuing? 

 4. Managing Change 

Most people like change. In fact, they do it all the time. People buy new clothes, eat at different restaurants, travel to exotic locations, change jobs, and move to new countries, cities and neighborhoods. What people don’t like is uncertainty; and when faced with uncertainty people ask questions, with none more frequent than “WHY?” 

Good leaders don’t see this as resistance to change, but instead as a sign of employees looking to better understand and deal with uncertainty. To help employees manage change, leaders need to answer their “Why?” questions. The key ones are listed below. If leaders cannot answer these questions, it is likely that the change has not been well thought out, and they will not be able to respond effectively. 

  • MACRO – What is it about the global situation that explains why the change needs to be made? 
  • MICRO – What is not working and how do the proposed changes respond to that? 
  • HEARTS – What are the values that drive the change? 
  • MINDS – What is the logic behind the change? 

Leaders then need to communicate the answers to these questions to employees early and often. This will reduce uncertainty and increase employees’ ability to manage change. 

 5. Engaging in Conflict 

Leaders need to engage in and resolve conflicts, not avoid them. Unfortunately, that is not what we have been seeing. Examining data from the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument from the last couple of years, we see increases in conflict avoidance behaviours, and a decrease in conflict engagement. 

TKI conflict modes

The result from underuse of: 

  • Competing is indecision and delayed action 
  • Compromising is inability to negotiate effectively 
  • Collaborating is less innovation, less empowerment, less win-wins 

The result of overuse of: 

  • Avoiding is festering issues, climate of caution, decisions made by default 
  • Accommodating is overlooked ideas, loss of contribution, limited influence 

So good leaders will need to ask employees to be assertive and ensure that people are able and willing to share their ideas, opinions, thoughts and reactions.  


To learn more about effective leadership click the link below to request a recording of the Leadership Skills in 2023 webinar hosted by Shawn Bakker, I/O Psychologist. 

 View Complete Webinar

Filed under: Leadership Development