Important Leadership Skills for Workplace Success

​​Being a leader undoubtedly brings a lot of responsibilities.

Without the proper leadership skills, it’s hard to lead a group of people towards the right path of achievement.

Recent studies found managers’ leadership quality to be a significant determinant of an organization’s success.

The research shows 52% of companies with higher leadership qualities experience:

  • 2.8x more financial performance.
  • 4.6x better customer satisfaction.
  • 4.7x more productivity.
  • 4.4x improved quality of services.

On a personal level, having strong leadership qualities will also put you at an advantage in the job market. Especially since companies are trying to fill in vacant positions due to the Great Resignation wave.

Diving back into the topic, in our current attention economy, how does one discern the most essential and well-rounded leadership skills?

Well, before we talk about the important leadership skills for workplace success, we need to define success.

The criteria for success depends on the context and might be relative to a particular individual or team.

For example, for a social media manager, success could look like getting content to go viral. For a sales team, it could be hitting the sales quota of the month. And for a recent graduate student, could be getting their first full-time job in their field.

In this particular context, we’re outlining the important leadership skills necessary to achieve the six levels of high-performing teams.

We’ve chosen to look at success through these six steps because, at the end of the day, the number one goal of an effective leader is to create unstoppable teams no matter if you're a social media manager or a sales manager. The power in the six levels is that it is relevant to leaders of any team.

How can you do that? By developing your skills with leadership training for managers.

Below we break down the six levels of leadership and the necessary skills to achieve them.

What are the Six Levels of Unicorn Leadership?

One of the biggest misconceptions about leadership is that you lead a group.

But the reality is that you lead a group of individuals.

This is why teamwork is much harder than we give it credit for, especially when you need to influence a group of individuals to engage in efficient teamwork. And what’s even harder is creating a thriving culture that fosters a high-performing team.

To understand how to create cultures that build high-performing teams, we have to decipher how to create an effective culture and what makes a team high performing. Not only that, but we have to decipher how to unlock this through engaging our own leadership skills in the process.

These six crucial steps help startups create powerful teams and foster an influential culture at work.

We describe them as steps because they build on top of each other. It is that much more challenging to create a shared vision as a leader if your team lacks in the precedent levels.

  1. Psychological safety.
  2. Empowerment.
  3. Communication and Productive Conflict.
  4. Culture of leadership.
  5. Making an impact.
  6. Shared vision.

Read the Six Levels of Unicorn Teams article for a deep dive on each step and insight on how they apply to effective culture building.

12 Leadership Skills for Workplace Success based on the Six Levels

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is defined as an individual's perception of the consequences of taking risks and being vulnerable in front of their teammates.

In other words, psychological safety is the belief that you won't be punished when you mess up.

Psychological safety empowers employees to take risks and speak their minds.

Psychological safety empowers employees to take risks and speak their minds.

What leadership skills do you need for this level?

  1. Communication skills.
  2. Emotional Intelligence.
Psychological environment can activate the flight or flight response of your team.

#1 Communications skills allow for open discussion.

Research shows characteristics of a team with poor psychological safety include team members who are quick to blame each other when things go wrong, team members hold different values or beliefs from each other, and there’s a culture of conflict.

Blame and criticism create toxic conflict, which leads to defensiveness, arguments and disengagement.

When employees come to work with feelings of defeat and mistrust, they are unproductive and inefficient at their jobs. These teams have a low capacity for success.

However, if you, as the manager, have great communications skills, you will be able to create a space where people can share ideas openly and create productive discussions with different perspectives, it will allow your team to be more innovative and make better strategic decisions.

#2 Emotional intelligence is reflected in your team’s performance.

Our emotions and moods affect our relationships and our ability to lead.

Your title makes you a manager, but it’s your people that make you a leader. So understanding how our emotions affect the people we lead is crucial.

Leadership is all about relationships.

Leadership is all about relationships.

Great leaders have the ability to motivate us. Being able to identify how your own emotions affect those around you is an underrated skill.

Nine out of 10 people say the biggest cause of stress is their interaction with their managers.

And that’s because leaders act as the emotional guide of the team since they are usually the first and last people to speak, they also tend to have the most speaking time at meetings.

As a leader, you want to practice emotional resonance, which means tune your tune to people’s feelings and the atmosphere.

When a leader doesn’t properly guide the emotions of their team, there’s a phenomenon called emotional hijacking, which is when people are flooded with negative emotions that “hijack” the vision of the task at hand. Thus, affecting the performance and success of the team.

👉  Learn more why High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety: Here's How You Can Create it on Your Startup Team.


Employee empowerment is essential to the formation of high-performance startup culture.

When your team is empowered, your members aren’t afraid to speak up. This creates a culture of feedback that allows for better discussion, idea generation, and startup innovation.

What leadership skills do you need for this level?

  1. Delegation skills.
  2. Decision-making skills.

#1 Delegating creates room for empowerment.

Unless we can empower our team to make decisions without us, we, as managers, will be burnt out.

Leaders who try to take on too many tasks by themselves will struggle to get anything done. These leaders often fear that delegating tasks is a sign of weakness when it actually can be a sign of a strong leader.

Therefore, you need to identify the skills of each of your employees and assign duties to each employee based on his or her skill set.

Empowering team members through delegation will allow everyone to take accountability for their actions, come up with innovative solutions and ideas and work hard towards workplace success.

The challenge is difficult, but by delegating tasks and outlining roles, you’ll stop controlling the environment and start creating a space for growth and trust.

Moreover, it will make you irreplaceable given the potential you unlock in a team contrary to the popular belief that delegating some of your work robs you of your own value.

#2 Make logical and emotionally balanced decisions.

The ideal decision-making format every startup strives for is a consensus decision-making style.

This type of decision-making style allows employees to work together with their managers to come up with a course of action that everyone agrees on.

For this skill, it’s crucial you define and clarify the specific role and responsibilities of each member. ​​Having clear boundaries of who gets included in what also contributes to efficient delegation and decision-making abilities all of which touches on the practice of empowerment

When the team is unable to make a choice, the manager ultimately has to make a decision. They do this by having a good balance of emotional and logical reasoning, in order to make an impartial choice that benefits the project and the team’s goal.

Knowing when and how to make decisions and when to allow team members to come up with their own solutions, is crucial to creating empowered teams.

👉  Read this blog to learn Three Ways to Empower Employees to Do Their Best Work.

Communication and Productive Conflict

Conflict is our journey to the truth. So, we need to ignite, embrace and manage conflict.

What leadership skills do you need?

  1. Ability to ignite productive conflict.
  2. Listening skills.

#1 Igniting productive conflict leads to effective dialogue.

Managers need to allow a safe space by igniting productive conflict.

To create these safe spaces, leaders need to ensure everyone beliefs that confronting the conflict will benefit the individual and the team.

The best way to have productive conflict is by establishing respect and creating readiness to compromise. Since diverse opinions are welcomed, people need to be OK if the outcome chosen wasn’t their proposed idea.

Teams that regularly communicate and feel safe expressing their opposing views will engage in discussion and productive conflict.

Otherwise, they will stay silent and won’t voice their concerns.

#2 Ability to listen builds collaborative conflict.

When people don’t say what’s on their minds to avoid conflict, this creates an artificial collective understanding.

Similar to leaders being open to suggestions and feedback, if your team is dissatisfied with an aspect of the office environment, listen to their concern and be open to making necessary changes.

You can create open collaborative conflict discussions where people can voice their concerns safely and feel heard.

Empowered people need to practice voicing their opinions (as outlined in the previous skill) and naturally that flows into the leader being able to receive those opinions without preconceived judgements.

Employees will appreciate a leader's ability to accept appropriate feedback and someone who listens.

👉  Read our blog on Why You Should Embrace Conflict in The Workplace.

Culture of Leadership

In an interdependent culture of leadership, leadership is seen as fluid.

When leadership culture is fluid it’s understood that anyone can lead.

All team members are recognized as having a capacity for leadership and the role of the leader is passed to them during their times of strength.

This kind of leadership culture is not only motivating but inspiring to work in. Employees feel empowered by the fact that they know that they are the leaders in their field of expertise.

What leadership skills do you need?

  1. Commitment.
  2. Accountability.

#1 Commitment is a great way to lead by example.

It’s important for leaders to follow through with their agreements. Employees see their managers’ commitment and follow the example.

If you’ve committed to giving your staff a reward after a certain milestone, for example, you should follow through with actions and not just words. A leader can’t expect their employees to commit to their job values, and tasks if they are not holding themselves to the same standards.

Applying feedback, keeping promises, showing passion, prioritizing tasks, are just a few of the qualities managers can show under this skill.

#2 Accountability leads to trustworthiness.

A leader is responsible for both the successes and failures of their team. Therefore, you need to be willing to accept blame when something doesn’t go as planned.

At the same time, taking accountability for the decisions you made will carve a path of trustworthiness and truthfulness amongst your team.

Instead of shifting the blame onto team members when something goes wrong, accept the mistakes and work to find solutions for improvement.

Showing your members you’re accountable for your own actions will foster a place where they also hold themselves accountable thus building a culture of well-rounded leaders.

👉  Here is how you can Develop Leaders: Three Effortless Steps for Transforming Employees into Leaders.

Making an Impact

Only 15% of the world’s employees are engaged in their work worldwide, and such limited employee engagement leads to high turnover rates.

No manager wants their team to feel uninterested and detached from their work, but many struggle to understand what they can do to turn the story around.

What leadership skills do you need?

  1. Coaching skills.
  2. Positive attitude.

#1 Coaching and developing others through a growth mindset leads to better results.

Those who have a growth mindset believe they can develop their talents. People with a growth mindset tend to achieve more than individuals with a fixed mindset because they care more about learning and development than they do about being the smartest person in the room.

When employees adopt a growth mindset, they feel more committed to their work.

With a growth mindset, employees feel they have the potential to grow, learn, and thrive within a company.

Employees also feel more motivated to do their best because they know that their personal development and hard work are valued.

Shifting from managing to coaching will help people evolve into their roles.

#2 Positivity will enhance a sense of purpose.

A positive attitude can go a long way at your startup.

You should be able to laugh at yourself when something doesn't go quite as planned; which helps create a happy and healthy work environment, even during busy, stressful periods.

Additionally, use positive words and demonstrate to your employee how you have noticed their improvement and are proud and happy with their performance.

For example, if you find that employees have been working on a professional skill that has helped them improve their last deliverable, tell them!

Another way you can be personal in your employee recognition is to acknowledge accomplishments outside of work.

Team members are more than workers. They’re people too, and recognizing their outside hobbies and passions they’re involved in reminds them of that.

👉  Check this blog about How to Make Your Employees Feel Valued at Work.

Shared vision

The last level of unicorn teams is a result of the rest. It comes once you’ve established the rest levels and skills.

Far too often the biggest mistake people and companies make is they focus solely on the vision and mission and ignore the other steps to get there.

A vision without a foundation is seen as a cheap marketing scheme.

What leadership skills do you need?

  1. Adaptability.
  2. Motivation.

#1 Adaptability is key for innovation and growth.

Mishaps and last-minute changes occur all the time at startups. That’s why leaders need to be flexible and able to adapt to current and future changes without compromising the core values.

A successful team and organizational culture sustain purpose.

Jim Collins said, “companies that enjoy success have core values and a core purpose that remains fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.”

He calls this the dynamic of preserving the core while stimulating progress.

Employees will appreciate your ability to accept changes in stride and creatively problem solve.

#2 Motivation encourages productivity and passion.

A strong leader is one who is able to get the best out of their team members, inspiring them to reach their full potential and motivating them to achieve common goals.

A vision provides guidance on what is core. But leaders need to inspire their members to go the extra mile for their organizations, encouraging productivity and passion.

The best visions are memorable and inspirational. However, they are most meaningful when everyone on the team spends time asking what it means to them to bring this vision to life.

If you care as a leader, and you motivate your team to care as well, you will create norms and healthy relationships in your organization.

As leaders, we have to create a high-purpose environment, remove our egos from leadership, embrace adaptability and change practice as an ongoing never-ending process.

👉  Read this blog on How to Create a Shared Company Vision that Will Energize Your Entire Team.

How can you Build these Leadership Skills?

The best way to acquire these leadership skills is through leadership and management courses.

As we’ve covered, strong leaders have a positive impact on employee retention, performance, engagement and morale. Additionally, they are able to build high-performing teams.

But not all managers know how to effectively lead their teams.

Teams that trust one another, empower each other to make decisions, engage in conflict, coach for growth, and are able to set aside their individual needs and agendas to focus exclusively on what is best for the team and the company’s vision.

On top of that, startups with effective leadership experience better overall performance, including high levels of customer satisfaction, organizational productivity, financial gains, and product quality.

By developing your skills with leadership training for managers, you will be able to lead and lead transform your team from good to great.

At Unicorn Labs, we run leadership training for managers so startup teams can effectively integrate these six steps and skills into their corporate culture.

👉 Check out our workshops page to learn more.

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