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5 Key Skills and Competencies for Organizational Leadership Graduates

As an organizational leadership graduate, developing certain key skills and competencies is crucial to succeeding and progressing in your career. Organizational leadership is more nuanced than team leadership and requires specific business acumen. As a result, organizational leaders must deliver traditional leadership skills and competencies at scale to succeed.

This article covers key skills and competencies for organizational leadership graduates, including strategic thinking and planning, effective communication, team building and collaboration, problem-solving and decision-making, and emotional intelligence and empathy.

1. Strategic Thinking and Planning

Strategic thinking is the ability to plan for the future and conjure ideas or prepare strategies that cope with changing market conditions while minimizing potential challenges that may arise. This long-term thought process focuses on the analysis of critical factors that may influence the success of an individual, team, or organization.

Importance of Strategic Thinking in Leadership

Strategic thinking is crucial in organizational leadership as it allows leaders to:

    • Work through unknown situations

    • Anticipate threats and vulnerabilities

    • Identify and forecast opportunities to pursue

    • Be proactive and not reactive

    • Prepare now for success in the future

    • Make crucial decisions that allow teams and the company to move forward

How Organizational Leaders Use Strategic Planning

diverse team of managers use laptop and tablet computers at a meeting
Strong organizational leaders have great problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Organizational leaders use strategic thinking and planning to set clear goals and objectives to achieve desired outcomes. Leaders analyze, compile, and synthesize internal and external data and ideas during strategic planning to develop strategic intent and build a strategic narrative.

This information is used to set clear goals and objectives to achieve the organization’s bottom line. As an organizational leader, you choose and plan actions to accomplish the set goals.

Strategic thinking is also essential in resource allocation. When you anticipate challenges and forecast opportunities for growth, you can assign and manage assets in a manner that supports the company’s strategic planning goals. The process involves determining how best to split company resources to reach your goals and objectives while maximizing the use of available resources.

Organizational leaders also use strategic thinking to monitor progress. They can assess their effectiveness, identify shortcomings, and measure success by critically evaluating the performance of set actions and strategic initiatives.

Benefits of Strategic Thinking and Planning Skills 

 Some of the benefits of developing strong strategic thinking and planning skills include:

    • You become better at anticipating, forecasting, and capitalizing on opportunities.

    • Increased flexibility as you can adapt to changes and shifts in marketplace conditions.

    • You become more adept at divergent thinking.

    • You make a greater contribution in any role.

    • You become proactive.

    • Increases your ability to problem solve.

    • Increases your credibility and level of influence in your career.


2. Effective Communication

An organizational leader is an individual who inspires positive incremental change by empowering teams and colleagues to work towards common goals. The most powerful tool for doing this is communication.

Effective communication, whether written, verbal, or non-verbal, is vital in aligning efforts in the pursuit of goals, gaining trust, and inspiring positive change. When you lack effective communication as an organizational leader, you create barriers that hinder progress. For instance, important information can be misinterpreted, projects can be delayed, and team members can feel disconnected.

According to research, successful leadership is all about communicating effectively. Successful organizational leaders can put forth ideas clearly, understand problems, share solutions, and resolve conflict. They can convey complex ideas in simple, easy-to-understand terms to minimize confusion. This helps build trust and improve relationships and teamwork.

Possessing strong communication skills helps leaders motivate teams while inspiring an intrinsic desire to achieve shared goals. When you constantly share positive feedback with team members, keep them informed, and ask for their thoughts, you create a sense of belonging and culture that improves their performance and output.

Great communicators also persuade and convince teams to work towards a common goal. This increases collaboration within the organization.

Tips for Improving Communication Skills

Here are some tips to help you improve your communication skills:

During Meetings and Presentations

Communicate thoughts, ideas, and information clearly and precisely. Be direct and to the point, and set clear expectations for your team. Try to illustrate goals and objectives through stories and maintain eye contact with everyone in attendance. Similarly, display positive language like nodding and other relaxed gestures.

Throughout the meeting, watch your audience closely for non-verbal signs of engagement, disengagement, understanding, or confusion. This will help you adjust your message and delivery accordingly.

Encourage input from others and listen carefully before responding. Employees love leaders who listen and involve them in crucial organizational processes.

During Negotiations

The three primary techniques for improving communication in negotiation are:

    • The use of questions: Ask essential questions to gain insight into the other party’s position and needs.

    • Listening: Listen attentively without interrupting.

    • Role reversal: Put yourself in the position of the other party to understand where they’re coming from.

3. Team Building and Collaboration

organizational leaders showing unity
Organizational leaders play a crucial role in creating a collaborative workplace.

Fostering a collaborative environment and strong team dynamics in an organization is essential to higher profitability, increased success, improved throughput, and more innovation. Studies show that when teams are connected, they’re more creative, collaborative, and productive. They’re more engaged in an organization’s mission and are more likely to work towards achieving shared outcomes.

Organizational leaders play a crucial role in creating a collaborative workplace and building and maintaining high-performing teams. They bring everyone together and set clear expectations for every member while clarifying their roles and responsibilities. They encourage participation from all members, give teams autonomy in decision-making, and show appreciation for their efforts.

Leaders also solve problems among team members to minimize conflict and establish a code of conduct to ensure team members treat each other with the utmost respect.

Some of the team-building exercises and techniques that organizational leaders can use to improve team cohesion and collaboration include:

    • Organize team-building activities such as boardgame gatherings or lunch meetings

    • Establish a judgment-free, idea-sharing culture

    • Acknowledge each individual and get to know them on a personal level

    • Ask for feedback from team members

    • Participate in team bonding exercises such as asking everyone to share their personality

    • Keep open and transparent communication with teams

4. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Problem-solving and decision-making are two key skills strong organizational leaders need. Every leadership role requires leaders to confront arising problems, identify solutions, and make essential decisions. A great leader can work through these problems and make tough decisions that benefit the organization.

If an organizational leader can solve problems with confidence, greater accuracy, and creativity, they minimize or eliminate factors that may negatively impact a company’s bottom line.

Problem-solving and decision-making go hand in hand, and leaders can use various techniques and models to tackle complex issues. One common technique is trial and error, where leaders repeatedly work to solve a problem using different approaches. This technique involves applying different solutions to challenges and evaluating their effectiveness.

Another popular problem-solving model is GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward). This involves identifying the basics of a problem and the optimal outcome before developing steps to achieve that goal.

Regardless of the model or technique you choose, the framework to achieve desired outcomes is the same:

    • Identify and define the problem

    • Determine its root cause

    • Identify possible solutions

    • Evaluate your options and select a solution

    • Implement and monitor the solution

    • Adapt as necessary

It’s vital to note that analytical and creative thinking are critical in problem-solving and decision-making. They allow you to break down problems into core parts, decipher complex information, and analyze and detect patterns and anomalies essential to the decision-making process.

5. Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

confident businessman in his office
Leaders with emotional intelligence are effective leaders.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and recognize your own emotions and other people’s emotions. In leadership, it’s the capability to manage and control your emotions while recognizing and understanding your team’s emotions and perspectives. Leaders with emotional intelligence better understand and manage their emotions and those of others, minimizing conflict while maintaining healthy relations. They can also process their emotions more positively, regardless of how stressful or urgent a situation is.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence build lasting, meaningful relationships, empower teams, communicate effectively, and build trust. Their level of empathy inspires and motivates teams to be more productive and creative, improving organizational performance.

If you want to develop emotional intelligence and empathy, do the following:

    • Be more self-aware of your emotions and emotional responses. Identify when you feel angry, anxious, or nervous and how you respond to it to help you process and communicate more positively.

    • Show compassion for others and offer a helping or comforting hand where possible.

    • Remain calm and stay positive in stressful situations.

    • Practice active listening.

Bottom Line for an Organizational Leadership Graduate

As an organizational leadership graduate, developing strategic thinking and planning, effective communication, team building and collaboration, problem-solving and decision-making, and emotional intelligence and empathy skills are crucial to succeeding in your career.

However, learning doesn’t stop when you graduate! Continuous learning and development are key to increasing your competence, polishing your skills, and setting you apart from other applicants. This is why you should take time to assess your current skill set and identify opportunities for improvement and development for career progression.

Considering a degree in organizational leadership? Here’s your complete guide to Organizational Leadership Degrees.