10 Skills Every Leader Should Develop In 2013

Last year, I took a break from my traditional predictions post. And to be honest, I missed it. Not that I was really good at predicting the future or anything . . . but I enjoyed spending time thinking about what the future of work might look like.

leaders, leadership, skills, develop, networking, curation, problem-solving, public speaking, 2013

So I wanted to do that exercise again. What does 2013 have in store for us? But instead of talking about possible future events, I thought it might be fun to share the skills we as leaders will need in order to deal with them. Regardless of your role and responsibilities, the more you develop these skills, the better equipped you are for anything the business world might throw your way.

  1. Arithmetic – Politics aside, President Bill Clinton delivered the line that caught our attention “It’s arithmetic.” Math has become cool again thanks to movies like “Moneyball”, television shows such as “Big Bang Theory” and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog. So get out the calculator and talk some numbers.
  2. Business and Accounting – I enjoy reading the comics and the sports page too but having a handle on what’s happening in the business world is essential. And that means not only knowing that the iconic Twinkie is leaving us but why Hostess Brands filed bankruptcy in the first place.
  3. Curation – There is so much information available to us, being able to find the right data at the right moment is crucial. We can’t use last year’s reports anymore – the data is obsolete. Knowing how to locate accurate and timely information is critical to our success.
  4. Decision-Making – Consensus building is an art. And it’s not the answer for every type of decision. Knowing when to make decisions independently and when to involve others is important. It’s equally important to realize when a decision must be made and when to wait a few days or weeks.
  5. Networking – To survive in business, a person must have a network. Leaders should constantly build relationships. You never know who might be able to open a door or share knowledge. Never, ever pass up the opportunity to meet people.
  6. Problem-Solving – Business is all about fixing problems. Whether it’s designing a new product to make consumers happy, creating a new process to make employees’ lives easier, or solving a challenge you’ve personally been facing. Learning a system for identifying, analyzing and solving problems will improve both your personal and professional life.
  7. Public Speaking – You don’t have to be a keynote speaker or facilitate a full-day workshop. But do get comfortable with standing up in front of a crowd and talking. At minimum, be able to articulate who you are and what you do for a living.
  8. Recreation – Adopt a work hard/play hard attitude. Be the best business leader you can be. Then find the time and the activity to keep you grounded. For example, I enjoy making jewelry and Fantasy Football. It doesn’t matter what the activity is…but find some way to keep a sense of balance.
  9. Self-Management – Know yourself. Know how to manage yourself. Be confident and comfortable identifying when you’re stressed or struggling. Recognize what energizes you. And what drains your energy. The more leaders understand about themselves, the better they will manage their own behaviors.
  10. Writing – This last one might sound silly…but know grammar basics. More importantly, refine your writing style. Try different approaches of explaining your logic. Practice composing succinct thoughts.

I realize this is a pretty big list but what do you think? If you could tell a group of leaders the skills they should focus their energy on…what would you include?

Image courtesy of Christmas Stock Images


  1. Tony Bennett says

    Well, Sharlyn, that list got me thinking! Much needed I assure you.

    Particularly like your focus on recreation. Work life balance is very important for both leaders and those they lead. Setting an example in this area can be very positive for the organisation as well as the leader!!

    I admit I am intrigued!! Definitely some great skills for leaders to acquire …. but a leadership list from an HR professiional that has almost nothing in it about leading and relating with people inside the organisation?

    Perhaps the biggest opportunity for most leaders involves their relationships with their people. My personal list would include

    1. Listening skills
    2. Revisiting and communicating a simple set of values

    and one which is perhaps not a skill (in the same way “recreation” is perhaps not a skill!!)

    3. Ensuring that there are an integrated and consistent set of HR strategies and policies which are aligned with the organisation’s strategies.

  2. says

    Thanks for this list. It’s very insightful. I would add ‘agility’ to self management. To cope with the volatility we are facing in the world leaders need to be agile but this can only be achieved once leaders are self aware and have developed a high level of self management.

  3. says

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m a believer that leaders exist at every level of the organization, not just in terms of managing people. Individuals who manage processes or people who consider themselves individual contributors have tremendous opportunities to demonstrate leadership.

  4. James Howell says

    Excellent list and foundation for leaders at all levels of an organization. In addition, vision is advanced leadership. As a leader, how well do you paint a picture of a future state, get buy in, communicate as much as needed to assist people as they pass through the change threshold. And how nimble is that vision so that as the group learns through change, the vision gets adapted to respond to roadblocks and greater information.

  5. says

    I am a positively avid believer in Networking (in person). A career in Sales has shown me how critical “Face Time” with prospects can be. If you are engaging with Clients and Prospects, new leads and rewards will come. Face Time, emails, social media, blogs, & newsletters are all integral parts of customer service and sales. My favorite Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” is completely relevant today.

  6. says

    Thanks for the comments everyone! I’m hearing a lot about the curation component right now. We’ll see how business embraces it in the New Year.