Top Skills New Leaders Need (To Get Ahead)

Do you want to become a leader?

It won’t happen by accident. With our world changing at a seemingly more rapid rate, leaders—and aspiring ones—will need to learn to adapt to sense new expectations and opportunities.

“The leaders who are succeeding in this time are those who have been able to learn new skills and change,” stated the 2021 Global Leadership Forecast by Development Dimensions International, Inc (DDI).

This forecast and other recent studies share a key aspect in assessing what will differentiate those who will become tomorrow’s leaders: the development of new abilities that teach, draw on and reinforce certain sought-after qualities, such as critical thinking and problem solving.

In addition, the so-called “soft skills” of our social and professional lives—such as empathy and the ability to encourage others to hone their talents—play important roles in discerning who elevates to leadership roles.

To take a deeper dive into understanding these forces, we spoke with Christina Coyle-Lenz, director of Daemen College’s leadership and innovation graduate programs.

Embracing uncertainty

Possessing an ability to embrace the unknown and rapidly develop additional talents will be “the hallmark of great leadership in the years ahead,” the DDI forecast stated.

This means facing challenges where “there is not a playbook to sort it out,” Coyle-Lenz explained, noting that the latest in leadership scholarship—and what’s taught in programs, such as Daemen’s—aims to build a capacity for resiliency in students to meet “unscripted challenges with composure, competence, and confidence.”

Gaining these skills and experiences to overcome obstacles not only boosts confidence, but also tends to open the door for leaders to embrace thorny challenges—which can often turn into the best opportunities for growth and advancement, explained Coyle-Lenz.

Emotional intelligence

What are the hallmarks of empathy in the workplace? Teamwork, clear communication, and other interpersonal skills rooted in the consideration of others.

Yet, with technology having become integrated so fully in our lives, an erosion of “soft skills” has hurt the ability of many to facilitate relationships and strong bonds.

Therein lies the opportunity: professionals from recent generations can bolster their effectiveness by seeking “more help growing their communication and interaction skills, recognizing a greater need for developing empathy,” according to the DDI forecast.

In fact, the report found that “the number-one factor that influences burnout is leaders’ ability to demonstrate empathy–connecting with their teams on a more human level.” This suggests that the absence of compassion and empathetic abilities contributes negatively to professional performance and achievement.

When people “learn about themselves, they become more aware of their relationships with others,” said Coyle-Lenz. “A heightened sense of self-awareness tends to foster empathy.”

With her experience of teaching leadership and innovation classes at Daemen, Coyle-Lenz has witnessed firsthand the benefits to students who embrace practices such as becoming better listeners, which also aids them in practicing the art of conflict resolution.

Building the talent of others—and yourself

Developing a versatile and skilled generation of leaders—and attracting and retaining this type of top talent—will remain of significant importance to companies of all stripes, according to the forecast.

“According to HR professionals, identifying and developing future talent continues to be a top skill they look for in leaders. It’s also the single-most critical skill they’ll need in the next three years,” the forecast stated.

Investing time and energy toward thoroughly training and supporting yourself in leadership competencies—and your team members—can pay off in the long run.

By supporting employees who wish to move up in management, a company can increase its chances of having leaders that know its history, values, and goals for the future. There is strength in continuity and retention.

It’s clear: to become a successful leader, it’s of vital importance to understand the ways your contributions can make positive impacts within your organization and the larger community, explained Coyle-Lenz—and graduates of the leadership and innovation program at Daemen become immersed in ways for developing and practicing these skills, which are in ever-higher demand in today’s (and tomorrow’s) professional world.

Learn more today about Daemen College’s Leadership and Innovation Graduate Program, as well as the advanced certificate.


About Daemen College: 

Daemen College is a private, nonsectarian college in Amherst, N.Y., offering undergraduate and graduate level degrees. We encourage our students to be creative, innovative, ethically-minded leaders for an ever-changing, diverse, and interconnected world.

It starts right here with the intellectual strengths acquired through the liberal arts and the preparation necessary for professional excellence. Here, we create spaces for belonging and support students as they build their legacy.

Daemen encourages its students and alumni to move their dreams, vision, and values forward and to shape their community and make meaningful contributions to society. It all begins with higher education.


Christina Coyle-Lenz is the Director of Leadership and Innovation at Daemen College. In addition to her teaching at Daemen, she is the President of Prizm Solutions a consulting firm that specializes in organizational development and innovation. Her areas of focus include: Initiating and Leading Change, Creative and Critical Thinking, Teamwork, Fostering Innovation, Building and Living your Brand, and Understanding Stakeholder Needs.




Disclaimer: The above commentary entails the views of the author and not necessarily the views of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.


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