Contrary to popular belief, great leaders aren’t born into the role – they’re developed and molded. It takes a good deal of training, a fair amount of trial and error, and some well-earned experience (not to mention a willingness to continually learn) before most people get comfortable in leadership roles. It can be a difficult process, which is why the best leaders are always so valued.
But just as a painter has her brushes and a writer has his pen, good leaders have the tools they need to do their job well. The trick is knowing which ones are right for you. So let’s start out by considering the skills essential to quality leadership, then look at which tools you need to become the leader you were always meant to be.
A personalized leadership approach for each team member.
PI’s behavioral insights help leaders inspire and coach each employee in a way they truly connect with.
Skills every leader needs
Although the best leaders may seem like naturals, beneath whatever unique personal touch they bring to the role there is bound to be a concrete set of skills they’ve actively developed. It doesn’t matter where they work or how long they’ve been doing it, the following skills are essential for effective leadership:
- Communication: This skill starts with knowing how to actively listen to your employees and understand their perspectives. From there, you need to be able to clearly convey your ideas and instructions so that you can ensure a streamlined work process.
- Strategic thinking: This involves knowing how to align everyday objectives with the larger mission, set team and individual priorities, and course correct as needed. You should also know how to continually emphasize the big picture for everyone in order to keep your team aligned and productive.
- Time management: Using your time effectively is not just about being efficient, but also about knowing how to properly prioritize tasks. You’ll need to be able to first focus on your team on tasks that align most with organizational goals while, at the same time, looking out for opportunities to optimize productivity.
- Problem solving: Even the best leaders won’t be able to avoid problems – but they will be able to solve them. This means knowing how to identify root causes, come up with effective short- and long-term solutions, and put in place preventative measures so the same problem doesn’t happen twice.
- Decision making: Good leaders know how to make informed decisions on the fly. And they do this by building a framework for finding out the information they need. That means knowing who to ask questions, how to weigh out different opinions, and being good at considering multiple different possible outcomes against the larger goals of the team.
- Conflict resolution: Knowing how to keep conflicts from escalating into something more serious is an important skill for leaders. This will require a talent for actively and respectfully listening to both perspectives, then knowing how to come up with a resolution that is both fair and equitable.
- Emotional intelligence: Leaders who have the empathy to recognize the feelings of others, as well as the self-awareness to do the same for themselves, will be much more sensitive to how their decisions affect the members of their team. And that will help make a more trusting environment.
- Adaptability: The ability to quickly recognize the need for change and then make the necessary adjustments is another essential quality of a good leader. This will require you to remain consistently aware of the situation, how the needs of stakeholders may be changing, and what is happening in the larger context of your industry.
- Mentoring: Good leadership doesn’t just involve leading the team to success, but also ensuring individuals are able to fulfill their full potential. This means sharing your skill set with others, organization mentoring sessions between employees, and providing your team with the resources for continuous learning.
What are leadership tools?
There is no one kind of leadership tool. In fact, many of them aren’t even tangible. Instead, these tools can also refer to any of the resources, techniques, and strategies that leaders use to do their job. They may be software applications that help improve communication or help you stay organized, or they may be methodologies or practices that can help you develop more effective leadership skills.
There are countless tools available – so many, that we can’t even begin to list them all. But to help get you started, here’s a quick primer on some of the most common tools available and how they can help.
If there’s one thing an effective leader should know how to do well, it’s communicate clearly to their team. Fortunately, there is no shortage of tools now available to help you do this. In addition to the standard services, such as email or video conferencing software, there are chat tools like Slack and all-in-one services like Microsoft Teams. There are also services like Rev that can transcribe long video calls and Loom, which is great for recording short instructional videos of your screen.
Of course, as useful as many of these tools are, effective communication means more than just getting your message in front of people. It also means knowing how to listen to your employees, understand what they need, and maintain a productive dialogue with them. In order to do this, good leaders will have to practice more intangible skills, such as active listening, openness and transparency, and empathy. While the tools above might help you along this path, good communication will ultimately have to come with experience.
Tools that help leaders keep multiple projects running smoothly, stay up to date with an evolving set of priorities, make sure everyone stays on task, and otherwise stay organized may be nearly as prevalent as ones built for communication. Many of them, such as Teams and Google Workspace, even combine the two. Other popular options include Asana, which is especially useful for tracking project statuses and assigning tasks, and Trello, a tool that utilizes kanban-style boards for project management.
Like with communication tools, however, many of the above are only useful if you already know how to practice good organization. This includes an ability to prioritize different sets of tasks, allocate resources and responsibilities, respond to unexpected changes, and more. In other words, you should approach any organizational tools as a means to augment and improve the skills you already have, rather than develop them from scratch.
Good leaders are always open to feedback, whether it’s about their own leadership skills or the larger path they’ve set for their team. This is what assessment tools are built to provide. These can come in the form of software solutions, such as survey applications that allow you to send out questions and solicit feedback. Or they may be assessment techniques like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a long-established tool that helps you measure and categorize character traits and abilities.
There are many more as well, but often the best way to get consistent and quality feedback on your leadership abilities is to simply establish a regular practice of asking for it. This means emphasizing a transparent workplace where feedback and constructive criticism is not only welcome, but encouraged. Quarterly employee assessments should include opportunities for them to share their opinions on your performance. And at all times, there should be an option for workers to submit notes anonymously. This will help ensure that you are getting consistent and honest feedback.
There are a lot of exciting tools out there that help facilitate collaboration, whether it needs to happen among in-person workers or across a more distributed workforce. There are the aforementioned Teams and Workspace, but there are also creative tools like the digital whiteboards Miro and Mural. And if your focus is graphic design, then you can’t forget Figma. There’s also online storage services, like Google Drive and OneDrive. Although they may be less glamorous, they can be invaluable tools for enabling teams to share and collaborate on projects.
Whatever tools you choose to use, you’ll need to also apply appropriate strategies and frameworks for fostering teamwork too. This could include starting a mentorship program so that knowledge sharing becomes an integral part of the culture. Or you could put into place methods for ensuring psychological safety so that everyone on the team feels comfortable sharing ideas and taking risks. As a leader, your goal should be to guide your team toward supporting each other whenever possible so that collaboration becomes the default way of working.
Making firm, fast, and informed decisions is a central aspect of leadership. And doing this on a regular basis will typically require tools that make it easier to sift through large amounts of information and find the answers you need. The most common type are data analysis tools. Depending on your industry and specific needs, there are many different kinds, ranging from general all-purpose software like Excel to hyper specific analytical tools. Many of these also come with data visualization options as well.
But software is only the start. There are also plenty of decision-making strategies good leaders should learn. For example, knowing how to conduct a SWOT analysis is a great way to quickly assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a project or challenge before starting on it. Likewise, building out decision matrices can help you understand complex situations and simplify them – which will allow you to make better choices for your team.
Leadership tools your organization needs
Many of the most popular leadership tools out there are great for building on your existing communication, project management, and other skills, but they won’t necessarily help turn you into a good leader. For that, you need to have already established the base skills and techniques for effective leadership.
But wouldn’t it be great if you could have both? A tool that teaches you how to lead better, while also making the job easier? That’s exactly what our leadership tools are designed to do.
Finding the right people for the job can be daunting, not least because it involves knowing how to accurately and quickly assess someone’s skills, personality, and character traits. But by integrating actionable data directly into your hiring process, PI Hire can show you how to choose the best candidate faster than ever. Features include:
- Single out the most attractive traits for each client so you can quickly align with your team on the best picks.
- Get expert help on identifying the range of behaviors each job requires so that you can write better descriptions.
- Send out our scientifically validated Behavioral and Cognitive Assessments to gain a comprehensive understanding of a candidate’s quality.
Effective leadership can’t be taught by a class or read in a book. Instead, it must be learned through a process of continuous education and improvement. This is the idea we based PI Inspire around – that better leaders are born when they have access to tools that help them be their best ever day. Features include:
- Get science-based insights on individual employee work and communication preferences so that you can more effectively build a culture of respect, trust, and collaboration.
- Get objective relationship traits, cautions, and tips that help any two employees manage and avoid conflict based on their behavioral profiles.
- Handle tough situations with in-the-moment guidance on how to coach an employee, resolve a conflict, improve a relationship, and more.
Building teams that perform at their best involves a mixture of skills that can take years to properly develop. PI Design gives you a shortcut for doing this by breaking down the process of assessing, communicating, and motivating your team into a proven process. Features include:
- Insights into how your particular leadership style affects other personalities on the team, allowing you to make adjustments on the fly that set everyone up for success.
- Build a custom action plan with clear next steps to help team members to improve communication and collaboration.
- Gain alignment on your team’s strategic objectives. Know where your team is hardwired to succeed—and where you may need to call in reinforcements.
Employees can become disengaged and uninspired from work for a variety of reasons, which can make properly diagnosing and addressing this problem a challenge. But with science-backed pulse surveys, AI-powered recommendations, and a proven framework for finding and fixing disengagement, PI Diagnose enables you to make lasting improvements. Features include:
- Use the Engagement Dashboard to take the general health of your organization. Or filter down to the details to discover specific trends by department, location, demographics, and performance level.
- Build and send surveys in seconds in order to accurately measure and cover any aspect of employee engagement.
- See how you stack up against other companies based on 25,000 industry benchmarks.