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12 Key Areas of Leadership Development in 2024

(Last update: April 2024)

Being a leader and a manager is one of the most rewarding, yet tough, jobs you can do.

Whether you're leading a couple of employees or a large group, they have high expectations of you.

To help you keep up, this blog post covers why it's important for leaders to develop their skills and 12 development areas for successful leadership skills in 2024.

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Why is it Important for Leaders to Develop?

Your employees, senior leaders and key stakeholders expect a lot from you. They look to you to be...

  • Inspirational while managing their performance
  • “Agents” of change, while keeping up morale and gaining buy-in
  • At the forefront of implementing your organisation’s strategy, while keeping them on board

This is a lot. But to do all of that, you need to continuously develop your skills.

Developing skills as a leader is important to be able to deal with emotions (your own and others in the workplace), respond to change effectively, think strategically and make decisions under pressure. 

12 Key Areas of Leadership Development

Workplaces are always changing, so focusing on specific development areas will help you keep up with these expectations as a leader. To help, we've made a list of the 12 key development areas for leaders in the workplace.

1.       Effective Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring your staff is a powerful and cost-effective tool. Help your staff to make better decisions, solve problems that are holding them back, develop a new skill set, and progress in their careers.

Consistently setting goals for your team not only communicates expectations effectively but also boosts motivation, productivity, and helps establish a professional development plan. By helping them to identify their personal goals, this will give them a clear direction of what they are striving for and why.

Our highly interactive Effective Coaching and Mentoring training course will help you to develop the key skills and techniques that are required to become an effective coach or mentor.

Learn how to use coaching as a tool for employee growth or learn more about the differences between coaching and mentoring

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2.       Communicating and Managing Change

The success of your organisation’s strategy depends on effective communication. As a leader, you are at the forefront of delivering change within your organisation, however, you need the full support of your staff to achieve this.

By gaining senior buy-in, engendering an appreciation for change amongst your staff, seeing the bigger picture and communicating your long term strategy to key stakeholders, you will be able to create a change-ready organisation.

Is your organisation going through or about to go through change? Here are 5 essential steps for successful change management

3.       Effective People Performance Management

As the saying goes, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link”, so it’s important you have the tools and techniques at your disposal to help you manage performance across your team.

You might have someone who is underperforming, which is impacting productivity and morale. Conversely, you might have someone who is a star performer who gets frustrated at not being stretched enough. And then there is everyone in between.

We run a number of training courses that have been built with performance management in mind. Our 'Developing High-Performing Teams' training course will teach you how to utilise your team's full talent and potential to reach organisational goals.

4. Manage Conflicts

Various forms of conflict can arise in the workplace. From task-based conflict to leadership conflict, it's up to you to know how to deal with it, defuse and minimise the disruption. Many skills are the foundation of strong conflict management, such as active listening and regular team meetings or communication.

Related: From Tension to Resolution: A Guide on How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace.

Knowing what works best for your team and understanding their personalities is key. This will help you get to the root of conflict quickly and more effectively - avoiding disruption for the whole team. 

Although knowing which development areas for strong leadership is a great starting point, you also need to know what skills you need. Read our blog post to find out which skills you need for effective leadership.

5. Flexibility and Time Management

You can't have one without the other!

To be flexible, you need strong time management to understand how long tasks take and whether you have time if something urgent appears. 

Having effective time management and flexibility not only benefits your employees by allowing them to approach you for assistance when needed, but it also eliminates the need for scheduling meetings weeks in advance. This fosters a more accessible and supportive work environment, where open communication is encouraged and productivity can thrive.

6. Developing a Positive Team Culture

Every workplace culture is uniquely created by the type of employees and leaders in that organisation. As a leader, it's your job to maintain this culture, develop it further if employees are not engaged and foster greater opportunities to support one another. 

How you develop a positive team culture shouldn't be decided by senior leaders only. Involve the whole team and listen to their ideas, define success and build a strong culture together - this will help set standards high and keep everyone accountable. 

7. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence helps you understand other peoples' emotions around you and also manage your own. In a survey, 95% of employees believed they were self-aware, when in fact only 15% of them actually were. 

Although all employees need some level of emotional intelligence, it's more essential for leaders. This is because leaders who are emotionally intelligent are more likely to stay calm in stressful situations, understand others' point of view and resolve conflict more effectively.

Emotional intelligence is closely intertwined with team culture as it focuses on creating a nurturing environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions - knowing that their thoughts and opinions will be heard and valued without any form of judgment.

8. Giving and Receiving Feedback 

As leaders, it's crucial to embrace feedback as it plays a vital role in constant growth and development. The more feedback leaders receive, the better equipped they become to fulfill our responsibilities and handle the pressures of leadership effectively.

Giving feedback is also an important development area. Providing positive and constructive critism opens up conversations for room to improve and also helps build a relationship between leaders and team members. 

9. Active Listening

Active listening means you're listening to hear, not reply. This not only improves employee productivity as they will feel more heard, but it also allows less space for confusion about organisational goals and processes. 

Using active listening shows others that they're important to you and that you have time for them. This is a great way to foster trust and loyalty as a leader, especially if you're new to a leadership role. 

10. Self-Awareness

Leaders who can identify and manage their own emotions are likely to be stronger at managing conflicts and understanding different situations. Improving your self-awareness can be an uncomfortable journey, as it can reveal things about yourself that you didn't think were there or you were avoiding. 

To be an effective leader, look inside yourself to find your strengths and weaknesses to improve your interpersonal skills. This will help you make decisions with other people in mind, allow others to express their true selves and understand other people's viewpoints. 

One of the most effective ways to become more self-aware is to ask for feedback. It may make you uncomfortable, but it's a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and how you can improve. 

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11. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is all about being able to understand various ideas, and how they link together or impact one another. Using critical thinking improves decision-making, how to solve complex issues and understand how analytics plays an important role. 

As a leader, critical thinking allows you to observe your options, analyse them and decide on how to move forward in the best way. Critical thinking often doesn't happen in a linear way, it can take time to figure out how you prefer to analyse situations or decisions.

12. Decision-Making

The decisions you make will ultimately impact your career, your colleagues and also the success of the organisation. Knowing how to make a decision and stick to it is key for any public sector professional - not just leaders. 

Leaders have a lot of difficult decisions to make, so asking yourself the right questions and exploring the options at your disposal makes for a good start.

When a decision needs to be made, all eyes will be on you to make a strong choice. So, knowing how to avoid decision procrastination and decision paralysis can make your decisions easier to make and decreases pressure on yourself.

Develop Successful Leadership Skills and Reach Your Goals

See our full list of upcoming Leadership training courses to take the first step to lead with confidence, manage difficult conversations, re-engage underperforming staff and ensure staff stay motivated.

Development Areas for Successful Leadership Q&A:

1. Why is leadership development important?

Your development can make or break a team. Sounds quite dramatic, but if your skills stagnate, so will your team. Leaders need to be continuously developing their skills to stay on top of their game and reach any organisational goals that come their way.

We've got a range of Leadership and Management blog posts to help you develop your skills or download our FREE Leadership Handbook for fresh tips and strategies backed by data and research.

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2. What can a leader always improve upon?

Aside from the three key areas above, all leaders should work on effective communication. Whether that's to communicate with key stakeholders, customers or new team members, good communication skills are at the heart of strong leadership. Learn more about what it means to have good verbal communication.

3. So, what makes a great leader?

A great leader is someone who never stops learning how to become even greater.

Recognising that leadership is made up of an abundance of soft skills that consistently need developing, adapting and nurturing is the first step to greatness. Remaining content in your leadership means your organisation will get left behind in the dynamic of the ever-changing workplace.

Three ways to keep learning and be a become leader are: be open minded, listen to others and keep learning new things.

Develop your leadership skills through one of our many leadership training courses or enquire about our bespoke training today.

Chloe Martin
Content Editor

2+ years in SEO and content marketing. Striving to help public sector professionals develop their skills and learn something new through high-quality content.