At Leaders21, we are intensely interested in what makes good leadership in the new world of work, also known as New Work. After countless hours of literature research and many years of leadership experience, we have identified 6 important skills for a successful leader:

1) Awareness

Awareness means, in short, being conscious of what is happening around us. A crucial aspect of good leadership is the ability to recognize what is important and to act on it situationally.

There are 3 expressions of awareness you should work on:

  1. Self-Awareness – the awareness of yourself and your own strengths, weaknesses, expectations and goals.
  2. Interpersonal Awareness – the desire to understand people and the awareness of their values, interests, needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Situational Awareness – the awareness of what is happening right now, assessing situations correctly and deriving the necessary actions.


What can you do to increase your awareness?

Take time to get to know yourself and your team. Start with yourself and write down what is important to you, what you like to do, and what your big strengths are. 

Do the same exercise with each of your team members. Try to find out what their values, interests and needs are and be clear about their strengths and weaknesses.

You are laying the foundation for the next important skill. Awareness is a prerequisite for proactivity.

2) Proactivity

In short, work proactively with the insights you’ve gained about yourself and your team. 

  • Look to develop yourself, to consciously promote your strengths in order to become excellent and to use your own interests and abilities in the right way.
  • Ensure you are supporting colleagues and employees and be a coach or mentor to them in order to gradually develop a high performance team.
  • Tackle what is necessary and initiate and manage change. 


How can you become more proactive? Here are 3 initial tips:

  1. Step out of your comfort zone from time to time
  2. Focus on solutions and not on problems
  3. Always decide “for” something and not “against” something

3) Create relationships

When the relationship level works and you respect and trust each other, extraordinary results and achievements become possible. This means it is important to build trust first, thereby creating the optimal basis for collaboration and performance.

I would like to mention a tip that a mentor gave me many years ago, because it sums it up exactly: “Do what you say and say what you do – that builds trust!” 

4) Communicate the vision

Millennials and young people of the so-called Generation Z are particularly interested in being part of something that makes sense to them and inspires them. That is exactly what a good vision should provide. The Purpose! The WHY! What are we all doing this for? What is our long-term goal? Where do we see ourselves in the future? What contribution are we making? These are the questions to ask yourself while communicating a vision for employees to be passionate about following.

5) Set goals

Having a vision is the basis for the 5th skill of a top leader – being able to set and communicate clear, understandable and motivating goals.

People need goals to move collectively in the same direction and to make results measurable. In this regard, methods have also adapted to the agile world of work. That is to say, more and more companies are not content with annual goals. Today, many companies are already working with the OKR method (Objectives & Key Results). One aspect of using this method is that the goals and measurement criteria are defined on a quarterly basis. My experience with OKRs is, whoever applies them correctly, will experience an incredible boost and understand how important focus is. This brings us to the 6th skill of a leader.

6) Focus on what matters

Andy Grove – former CEO of Intel and inventor of the OKR method – famously stated a phrase that every leader should remember. “If you try to focus on everything, you focus on nothing!”

This means that if you want too much at once, often you do not accomplish any of it in a truly outstanding way. As a leader you need the ability to recognize which issues have influence on the goals and the strength to focus on them. That means saying NO to other issues.

Finally, a tip from the field

Focus on your role as a leader. Define the WHY (the vision). Communicate WHAT you want to achieve (the goals). However, delegate the HOW (how to achieve the goal). Trust your team to determine how to achieve the goal. It frees up your time for the essential tasks of a leader.