5 Skill Sets Every Successful Leader Needs to Develop

As our world continues to become more diverse, with new ideas and possibilities emerging; our roles as leaders become more challenging. During the height of growth at PayPal, a goal was set to double our business, and to do that it was understood that each person would need to double their growth. The goal was inspiring. Everyone wanted that, but what it meant was entirely different thing.

In the last 10 years, we have seen the direct impact of technology and consumer preferences on business. Blockbuster closed its doors as services like Netflix gained popularity. Barnes & Noble and Borders were disrupted by ebooks and so many other stores by Amazon and Walmart. Today we are watching as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and other companies continue to disrupt their markets. As new technology is paired with consumer demand for convenience, companies must always be ready to innovate and pivot on their mission if they are to survive. This change is lead by leaders like you. Will your company be a Blockbuster or the next Amazon?

In the midst of this change, Human Resources has been studying leadership development today and the needs to the future. A future described as VUCA:
  • Volatile, change happening rapidly on a large scale
  • Uncertain- a future that can’t be predicted
  • Complex- challenges complicated by many factors
  • Ambiguous- little clarity on what events mean and impacts are
The leaders of tomorrow must be self-aware, adaptable, able to think across boundaries, innovate and collaborate. Traditional leaders and leadership won’t thrive with the changes that are happening. Besides the market changes, our workplaces are changing as younger generations with new ideas step into leadership, increasing appreciation of diversity, and the move to non-traditional 9 to 5 jobs. Successful leaders won’t be shaped by the expectations of those around them, but be certain of the contribution they want to have. They’ll better understand how to disrupt leadership and hold opposite views to come up with new ideas that transform how people work to achieve their teams and customers' desires.

To be successful, each leader will need to develop themselves in 5 skill sets: inner game, leadership, management, domain expertise, and entrepreneurship.

Inner Game

Your inner game is your ability to be present and calm, able to understand your feelings to make wise choices. Accomplishing great work is about relationship and being able to relate to those around you, all the while trusting your gut. For women, our inner game means re-writing old scripts that tell us we should be good girls, nice girls, quiet and polite. Not listening to the voice in us that tells us not to speak up or rock the boat. These old stories need to be re-written, with new ones of how women stand up for themselves and advocate for others, knowing that there are more important goals than being liked.


Leaders, whether managers or not, have a vision of the world and how it could be. Through influence and passion, they inspire others to take action. Leaders are adept at creating a vision, mission, and strategy for their group and community. Along with demonstrating the values that are important, leaders become the figures we look to to guide us. Often leaders must build the skills needed to resolve conflict, negotiate deals, speak the truth, stand up for their vision in the face of opposition, understand the market and more.


As defined by Merriam Webster manage means to handle or direct with a degree of skill or to direct the professional skill of. Managers are responsible for hiring talent, setting goals, providing feedback, developing their team, and let go of team members that aren’t a fit; all in service to the mission of the company. In short, they bring out the genius in their team members and team, set an example, and remove roadblocks to get work done. Great managers achieve the companies goals by investing and empowering, versus micromanaging. The choice to become a manager is a responsibility to take others careers and lives into your hands.

Domain Expert with Network Thinking

Whatever you lead or manage, you have a craft. Whether it be; engineering, product management or operations; as a manager you’ll always have your own projects as well as be responsible for developing your team. Especially where technology advances quickly, those leaders need to stay up to date of new advances and understand enough to lead their teams in their craft. In addition, as leaders progress and take on more complex challenges they need to also have an understanding of the organizational system they are working in. It’s not enough to understand just your own craft. Leaders need to understand how their team impacts and is impacted by the cobweb of systems and decisions in a company. The ability to maintain domain expertise and be a network thinker is a prized skill for the future.


Whether you work in a Fortune 500 company, a small company of 100 people or for yourself; all leaders can benefit from considering themselves an entrepreneur and developing the skills that come with it. This is the role and skill set many leaders unless you are a business owner, don’t readily develop. Starting today, think of yourself as an entrepreneur. You own your career, you are a talent scout for yourself and the president of your team. As an entrepreneur, you step into a direct role of ownership and responsibility. Entrepreneur’s don’t have someone to answer all of their questions, to provide them feedback, and someone to tell them how to prioritize their work. Each day they make decisions and take risks about what the right answer is. When something doesn’t work, they learn and try again. They don’t give up, because their work is on the line.

What's Next?

Look at each skill set and rate yourself on a scale from 1 as the lowest and 10 being the highest. Figure out where your strengths are and the holes in your skill set. For the skills that are the highest recognize what you are doing well in that area and what your strengths are. Celebrate them! For the lowest areas list out what the gap is and identify one skill set you’d like to improve this year and if you were doing that what behaviors, skills, things you would be doing.


    About the Author

    Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.

    Kim-ElishaCreate & Navigate Change, Lead Smarter