Citing your leadership skills is essential to landing your dream job, do you know how to show them on your CV and how to talk about them?
Leadership skills are always first on a hiring manager’s priority list.
No matter what experience you have or what role you’re in, getting along with others is essential for most jobs. Therefore, demonstrating these leadership skills in your resume and cover letter is an important step in securing a job interview.
If you have a quality skill set then you add value, but you will multiply it if you are able to raise the performance level of those around you. Great leaders raise group productivity. And this is, without a doubt, a very valuable asset.
Developing your leadership skills will make a world of difference to you, to those around you, and to your employer. Leaders are not born; they are done. Tell your future boss the story of how you became the leader you are today. Leadership is a journey and the company hopes that your leadership skills will be further enhanced by working with them. So much so, that they will be willing to support you in this effort.
What are leadership skills?
Great leaders take their team on a journey of personal development and business success. Both the challenges and the composition of their teams will show changes, so the set of leadership skills a leader will need to implement at any given time will change with the demands of each situation they face.
Each leadership skill (as with any behavior) involves a great deal of nuance, and its effectiveness will largely depend on how it is exercised.
Politely delegating a task, while also offering a reason and making sure there is a benefit to the person doing it, will most likely be a successful plan. Abruptly asking someone to do it, it may not be.
Every leader is different, and there are certain aspects of leadership that you will naturally be most drawn to. As with cultural fit, if the leadership is a good fit between you and your future employer, your chances of landing the job will increase significantly.
How to highlight your leadership skills when applying for a job
One of the simplest signs of leadership abilities on your resume is in your job description. Using the word manager or team leader in your job description will create a favorable impression in terms of how potential employers will perceive you.
Negotiating with your bosses for permission to use impressive-sounding titles is worth it for exactly this reason, but you’d better resist the urge to make them up on your resume, as it’s easy to check if they’re true.
Surprisingly, the one place you should never list your leadership skills is in the Skills section of your resume. You have to be able to demonstrate the behavior and impact of your leadership, so just a brief description of “influencing skills” will not suffice. The skills on your resume should be reserved for the stronger technical skills that will make you stand out from your competitors.
The best places to organically include leadership skills on your resume are your career profile and your employment history. Your future employer will understand which skills were tied to each of your achievements, so even though you may not have been explicit about which ones you used, he or she will be able to figure it out.
10 leadership skills with examples for your resume
These top ten leadership skills are part of every leader’s interpersonal toolkit.
Being the conduit for innovation and creativity at the helm of a team is one of the most powerful leadership qualities. When people have a leader who is happy to hear their different ideas and gives them a chance to prove their validity, they will be more bold in their decisions and push their limits beyond that of their competitors.
The different perspectives of a creative team come up with unexpected solutions: you never know when the next big idea will strike. This leadership skill will make you the go-to person when looking for innovative ideas.
“I developed a whole new way of recruiting customer service staff by advertising to our most loyal customers. People who love the brand, result: 45% increase in requests.
Setting goals, reaching milestones, and meeting goals is the fuel of a successful high-performance team. Ambitious employees only learn when they’re on a journey, so good planning skills help keep everyone on track. Leaders use strong facilitation and problem-solving skills to keep projects running, and risk management often plays an important role in preparing for the inevitable unforeseen roadblocks.
Most people in a company have so many things to do that it is difficult for them to plan. When there is a leader who manages to tie all the relevant issues together into a single cohesive plan, everyone feels more secure in their work.
“I facilitated a planning session for a project with more than 30 internal and 10 external collaborators. I managed the critical path and finished 15% ahead of schedule.”
3. Personnel management
Managing the varied personalities of those around you and building a cohesive team moving in the right direction is at the heart of people management. It takes a great deal of leadership skills to give everyone the space and opportunity to develop together.
Recruiting the right mix of talent and retaining it is a key measure of success, but sometimes you just have to watch someone head off in better directions. People management skills mean making a difference for others on their behalf, reaping the rewards while they are with you, but knowing that they will also leave you thanks to your management.
“I developed a group of young graduates into the most successful sales team in the company’s history. 70% of them have already been promoted and have advanced in their careers.”
Taking the hits and adapting when you need to (or even before you need to) is a key attribute of any leader. It’s not easy to change direction when your team already has a certain amount of momentum, but the more adaptable the leader, the easier it will be for your group to transition from one objective to another.
You must be responsible for your response to change, verify that you are on the right path and never stop repeating. One of the key leadership skills is knowing when to change your leadership focus. When the environment around you changes, you have to adapt to it.
“Realizing that our project was not achieving the objectives, we readjusted our aspirations, changed the range of action and obtained a new partner with whom we finally reached our budget goal”.
Getting your ideas, and those of your team, across to a broader audience is key to getting everyone on board and moving in the same direction. This makes relationships better, there is less conflict and innovative ideas have more opportunity to be exposed. When people are clear about what others think, they can modify their speech and behaviors to create a harmonious and productive atmosphere.
Writing skills cannot be underestimated in a leader’s arsenal: influencing others when they read your words is an essential communication skill. It is also a fact that every great leader needs to be a great listener. It is an important soft skill for every leader.
“I was the go-to bid writer on our procurement team, winning over 60% of bids. 2,000 words can make all the difference, when it comes to the right words.”
Sometimes it takes strategic thinking to go three steps ahead and anticipate what’s to come. Thinking in the big picture means constantly questioning whether you are on the right path to a destination that could be far in the future. Your analytical skills to see into the future must be top-notch and you must always keep track of your market to be able to detect any changes that may affect your route.
Leadership skills depend on taking your team on a journey: the best leaders share their vision of what the future looks like and chart the course for them to get there.
“We detected a trend in client management in the FinTech area that allowed us to increase our marketing touchpoints with clients by 75%.”
One of the roles of a leader is to make difficult decisions that could have gone either way. It is rare to find total consensus within a work team, so determination in decision making has proven to be a key leadership skill. People follow a leader because they trust his judgment: a leader who doubts and is constantly insecure will not inspire anyone.
Be brave, jump in and make decisions using the best possible facts and opinions available to you at any given time. Everyone has doubts that affect their dreams — and while a leader shouldn’t hide his vulnerability, he should be a helpful example to those who follow him when they see that he has the courage of his convictions.
“Faced with a one-week deadline to decide the final direction for a brand, we work through the nights to make the best decision possible.”
8. Change management
Understanding change, overcoming resistance to it, and then implementing it is a constant cycle of renewal and reassessment for every leader. Change management leadership skill requires a strong process orientation and the ability to understand how all the different cogs in the machine relate to each other.
A leader is required to drive the change and communicate the vision, as the process is rarely free of obstacles. Business development managers often show this on their resumes.
“Having 60% of the team changed after a corporate merger was no easy proposition, but we rallied and beat the budget in 4 months.”
No boss can do it all alone and only the worst ever try. When you have a large amount of work to do, you need to be clear about who is the best candidate to do it (and who would benefit from doing it). Delegating a difficult task to someone and guiding them through it is one of the best ways to achieve your goals.
You don’t need to tell them exactly what to do, you just need to point them in the right direction and give them a nudge when necessary. Resist the temptation to check on people too often. Show your team and colleagues that you trust them to do the best job possible with the tasks you have assigned them.
“Faced with the urgency of finding a way to save $300,000 in costs before the budget round, we brought a procurement expert onto the team and worked with us to ultimately save $425,000.”
10. Skills to influence
Understanding others and harnessing their motivations to help further your own agenda is the essence of effective influence. Persuading others works best when you see issues from their perspective, and the best leaders spend most of their time thinking about their management from the point of view of those around them.
Building close relationships and being grateful to everyone involved in your dream will take you a long way. Few things are more magical than understanding why someone might be interested in doing something, and then seeing their eyes light up when you point it out. Most people walk with tunnel vision… so broaden their perspectives.
“Traditionally, the sales and marketing departments hadn’t been close, so we did employee exchanges for a three-month period so they could see a different perspective.”
Citing your leadership skills in your cover letter
The fluid nature of a cover letter allows your leadership story to have a more human aspect. While the resume is traditionally more expository in nature, the cover letter focuses more on behavioral aspects.
The stories you choose to tell should align closely with the types of leadership situations you would face in your new role. Feel free to change your cover letter if you think certain types of behavior might not be compatible. There’s nothing worse for a potential employer than reading a cover letter and thinking, “Well, this kind of thing doesn’t happen here often.” Leadership skills are great only when it comes to the proper leadership skills.
Choose the right action verbs to give your leadership stories a bit more weight, and be sure to quantify your contribution as clearly as possible (while also highlighting the role of those around you). True leaders don’t make all the spotlights shine on them.
Leadership skills are one of the types of skills hiring managers are most interested in, so pay attention to where and how you list them on your job application. Ironically, the Skills section of your resume is the least effective place to showcase your leadership skills; instead, try to back up your accomplishments throughout your employment history. Your cover letter allows you to delve into more detail about the situations in which you have demonstrated your leadership skills.