20 skills that are hard for bosses to master, but can pay off forever

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Good bosses share certain traits across companies and fields.
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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

Leadership isn’t easy.

You can have all the talent in the world, but you’re not going to rise into a management position if you don’t have certain abilities.

These leadership skills transcend any one company or industry. They’re also tricky to master.

A handful of these traits might come naturally to you, but it’s likely that you’ll have to hone others.

However, they’re utterly necessary to get the hang of, if you’re looking to rise up within your organization.

Here are some crucial leadership skills that are difficult to adopt, but pay off forever once you master them:


An ability to roll with change

Change can be exciting, but it isn’t always easy.

Some people chase after every new fad, regardless of its real world application. Others fall into stagnant routines and refuse to innovate.

It’s up to great leaders to remain open minded to new approaches and determine what workplace changes are worth pursuing.

As Shana Lebowitz previously reported for Business Insider, the ability to “manage change” is a particularly desirable trait in the CPI 260 personality test, which measures leadership potential.


Listening skills

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Natalia Budantseva-Strelka Institute/flickr

Picture a successful boss. You probably see a confident figure striding around the office, dispensing wisdom, and proposing awesome solutions, right?

Well, that’s just one style of leadership. Frequently, the best leaders are also great listeners.

That’s the reason introverts make such great bosses. They’re not the loudest voice in the room. They actively listen to their employees’ concerns and ideas and take feedback into consideration.

It can be tricky to get the hang of actively listening to others, especially when you’re caught up in your own office agenda. However, it’s definitely in your best interest, especially if you’re looking to receive a promotion.


An ability to communicate effectively

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worldwaterweek/flickr

Honing strong communication skills is a bit more complicated than just mastering the art of speaking and writing. In an interview with Business Insider, workplace communication expert Skip Weisman reviewed three separate forms of communication, including self-communication, one-on-one talks, and public or group communication.

If you’re going to be a good boss, you’ve got to become at all three forms of communication.


The ability to manage expectations

It’s tempting to sugarcoat problems to avoid conflict and strife in the office.

Good bosses keep it real with their employees. They don’t get everyone’s hopes up, only to dash them.


Coaching skills

Coaching employees is tough. It can be challenging to walk the line between being too hands-on and too distant.

Good leaders are able to achieve this balance, however. Workers crave feedback. It’s crucial to professional development and allows us to become better employees.


Negotiating skills

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Wonderlane/flickr

Negotiation is a constant in the life of any manager. You’ve got to be good at it if you’re going to become a respected boss.

It’s not a simple skill to master. Negotiation is more an art than a science. Typically, you can’t just appeal to reason and or double down and hope for the best. You’ve got to be able to wrangle a bit.

If you’re looking to boost your negotiation skills, try tricks like gaining the other party’s sympathy.


An ability to dole out criticism

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University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment/flickr

When people fail to hit their marks, it’s the job of the boss to let them know. Giving criticism isn’t a pleasant task (unless you’re a jerk), but it’s a totally necessary one.


An ability to handle criticism

No one likes to be critiqued. Still, excellent bosses can tell the difference between blatant disrespect and honest criticism. This was a major belief of industrialist Andrew Carnegie, as Rich Feloni reported for Business Insider.

Good leaders are also open-minded and self-aware enough to take such criticism into consideration (and perhaps even use it to work to better themselves). If a good number of your trusted employees tell you that you don’t give enough feedback, it’s probably time for you to change your ways – or at least explain your methods to your workers.


An ability to build up morale

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University of Exeter/flickr

This one’s obvious, but tricky. Morale is crucial for any workplace. An office with low morale is an office in decline.

Boosting morale falls on the boss. It’s not as easy as baking people cookies and telling them they’re great. It’s really about maintaining excellent communication and putting the emotional needs of your employees first sometimes.


The ability to recognize great work

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University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment/flickr

Good bosses aren’t just masters of critiquing their employees – they’re also great at giving out praise.

Being able to compliment employees doesn’t sound too hard, right?

Wrong.

Here’s the thing, you don’t want to be too generous with your gold stars. Praising everyone equally cheapens praise given to superior work. This can lead to a decline in employee morale.


Decision making skills

Decisive individuals make for quality leaders.

Sure, sometimes a course correction is needed, and you can always change your mind once you’ve tried something that doesn’t work. However, only terrible leaders waffle on every decision. Good bosses weigh their options and make a definite choice.


An ability to explain themselves

“Because I said so, that’s why,” is a phrase best reserved for dealing with bratty kids. Good leaders recognize that their employees deserve an explanation for requests, major changes, and certain goings on at the company.


The ability to handle conflict

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University of Exeter/flickr

One integral part of being charismatic is being able to deal with conflict.

Conflict can be scary. Some people thrive on conflict (which isn’t necessarily a good thing). Others flee from it.

A good leader has to tackle conflict from every angle. When employees are squabbling, they might need to play the peacemaker. If a client becomes irate, they need to soothe things over. They can’t seek out useless conflict – needless fighting could damage relationships. That being said, they don’t back down – good leaders effectively argue their case and stand up for their convictions.


The ability to deal with difficult workers

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WOCinTech Chat/flickr

Toxic workers can really cost your company.

One study found that avoiding hiring one terrible worker can save a company up to $12,500.

It’s up to good bosses to identify these problem employees and deal with them. It’s not pleasant to have to fire or discipline someone, but leaders don’t want to risk one bad apple spoiling the bunch.


An ability to manage themselves

How can you manage others if you can’t even manage yourself?

Self-management is a crucial skill for potential bosses on the CPI 260 test. This means that it’s a great idea to hone traits like resilience and self-awareness, if you’re looking to get promoted.


An ability to deal with complaints

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Sebastiaan ter Burg/flickr

If something’s going wrong at work, who you gonna to call? Not the Ghostbusters (unless it’s a paranormal problem) – you’re going to go to your boss. Leaders have to deal with tons of complaints on any given day. It’s not a fun part of the job, but it’s necessary. Employees need to feel heard. Plus, many of their grievances can lead to changes that make the entire office more efficient.

Handling complaints is a large part of any leadership role. You’ve got to be able to make your employees feel heard and judge whether or not their issues warrant action.


Team-building skills

Yeah, you know the cheesy saying: “Team work makes the dream work.”

Bosses can’t just be looking out for themselves (not good ones, anyways). You can’t get by on just managing yourself or managing your employees as individuals. You’ve got to put an effort into managing an entire team. This comes with a big set of challenges, but it’s a crucial skill on a major leadership test.


Delegation skills

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Flickr / Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design

Being a great leader isn’t about becoming some super human that can get everything done without any help. It’s about being strategic and doing what’s best for the company. That means delegating tasks to the right people.

If you’re a bit of a perfectionist or a control freak, this can be difficult. It’s also tricky to determine how to motivate employees to get everything done effectively.


The ability to pay attention to detail

You might think that good bosses need to be “big picture people.”

That’s true, to a certain extent. When you’re at the top, it’s important to think of larger goals and not get bogged down in the weeds.

However, excellent leaders take details seriously too. They recognize that they must demand quality work from their subordinates.


An ability to stay positive and enthusiastic

It’s key to maintain enthusiasm and passion for your job, if you’re going to make an effective boss. This can be difficult and may require you make changes, like establishing a better work life balance or begin practicing mindfulness.

That’s because life isn’t necessarily easy at the top. Sometimes, you’re going to feel weighted down with responsibility. That’s why the best leaders build up habits skill sets that allow them to combat burn out.