Three core skills every great leader has

Improving leadership requires effort for most people. Here are three aspects which can help people in addressing skill gaps and going from good to extraordinary.

“Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is.”

As a company that works to recruit, develop and nurture leaders, one of the most common questions we get asked is: what am I doing wrong? Why aren’t I getting noticed?

It’s normal for frontline managers or junior executives to be striving hard to get to the next level but feeling like they’re always getting passed over. And there’s a reason for this – it’s because for the vast majority of us, being an exceptional leader presents a big jump from being a good one.

Think back to school or university. Most of us probably had a friend or two who seemed to be able to do little work, start their assignments last minute and still get top marks. The rest of us had to study hard if we wanted to excel.

Similarly, being a stand-out leader is something most people need to work on. Only very few great leaders are naturally born that way. Raw talent is rare and tends to get more attention than it should compared to hard work and training, experts say.

So if you’re not getting where you want to go, don’t despair. Self-awareness is key for a leader, so sit down and have a think about where you fit on these three aspects of great leadership:

  • Resilience
  • Curiosity
  • Calmness

Let’s look at each in more detail.


Getting feedback on performance is never easy, and often feels deeply personal. However, it’s important to have the resilience to be able to not just accept feedback but learn from and embrace it.

This means learning to adjust your mindset to one of growth and getting better.

Because in most large organisations, the processes of performance reviews and 360s are set up to make us think ‘you can do better’. In fact, research from Gallup found that just 14% of people feel their performance review inspires them to improve.

However, if you can teach yourself how to use these processes in a positive way, then your leadership development will accelerate, fast. So next time you’re handed a 360, think of it as a report, and nothing more. And instead of getting emotionally attached or allowing it to impact your confidence, think about how you can bring the contents of that report to life with real actions.


In today’s rapidly evolving workplace, diversity of thought is essential. It’s not just a nice to have, but it’s shown to benefit everything from innovation to revenue growth.

It therefore makes sense that the best leaders also embrace diversity of thought. And how do they do that? Curiosity. Constant, and endless curiosity. They ask questions. They listen actively to what’s being said, rather than just waiting for their turn to speak. Before reaching a final solution, they ask around and take input from various sources, so they can be sure they have the best understanding of a situation, and they’ve looked at every angle and evaluated all the potential risks before choosing the path forward.

Remember, however, that curiosity is not the same as judgement – in other words, you need to give yourself space to discover when being curious.

If you can find and enhance your natural curiosity, then over time your leadership will improve exponentially. It will ensure you have a growth, rather than a fixed mindset.


Have you ever been in a meeting where a leader lost their temper or got emotional about the situation? How did it impact on your impression of them?

The interesting thing about emotion, particularly in the workplace, is that it tells its own story. It is not only visible when you lose your temper, but in a myriad of ways from when you blurt out an answer in an unexpected situation to when your body language shows you grappling with a difficult decision.

Working on staying calm is therefore a very important development area for most want-to-be senior leaders.

A key to conquering calmness is to be aware of the difference between reacting and responding. That difference is emotion.

Responding involves pausing long enough to push aside emotion – but not too long – then answering calmly and thoughtfully.

Reaction often involves blurting something out too quickly and emotionally, or ‘snapping’ at someone.

Always be conscious of whether you react or respond – because it will be part of the lasting impression that people form about you. If you can master emotions, then you will inspire confidence and trust in those around you.

Remember, when it comes to better leadership, there’s a good time to start and that time is now. Play the long game, and practice regularly. Of course, this is not always easy on your own, and a coach may be of help in identifying the biggest areas for improvement and practical steps for moving forward.

That way, by the time a new leadership opportunity comes up, you’re already well on your way.

If you need any help developing your leadership skills, have a look at our career coaching or exclusive memberships. Or contact us for a confidential chat.

For more information on executive search and executive career coaching services, please contact Hunton Executive.


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