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Essential leadership skills for building your personal brand

Leadership skills are the most essential type of skill you’ll need throughout your career. Almost every profession requires leadership skills to some degree, and now more than ever, leadership skills are critical at work as more and more employees work remotely.

Leadership skills are required in every aspect of your career, from everyday interactions to how you develop and maintain your personal brand. Like leadership skills, your personal brand is integral to your career success. Defined as the overall perception of your experience, actions and achievements, your personal brand can help you become recognised as a leader and obtain leadership positions.

This article will answer the question: What essential leadership skills are required for building your personal brand? It will first discuss what leadership skills are, and then explore exactly why they are so important for your personal brand.

Next, it will provide multiple examples of essential leadership and management skills and detail how you should present them on your resume.

Make leadership skills part of your personal brand with Deakin’s Master of Leadership. In addition to identifying and analysing key leadership challenges in your workplace, you’ll build your skills and competence to deliver positive change – whatever role you’re in.

Get in touch with our enrolment team on 1300 043 524.

What are leadership skills?

To understand how leadership can help you build your personal brand, it’s first important to answer the question: What are leadership skills? Throughout history, leadership has been the subject of intense scrutiny for the world’s scholars.

A question that continues to plague researchers is whether leaders are born or made.

In the past, many scholars believed that leadership, or possession of good leadership skills, is innate to certain people. Thomas Carlyle first developed this theory, called the trait theory, in the mid-1800s. The theory focuses on identifying certain personality traits that are usually observed in successful leaders, regardless of their situation.

These traits produce certain behavioural patterns, which enable a person to become a great leader. Hence, leadership skills are usually inherited rather than learned, according to Carlyle.

These skills include adaptability and flexibility, courage, assertiveness, decisiveness, intelligence, communication, openness and calmness.

Since the publication of Carlyle’s theory, many psychologists have examined leadership and found that good leadership skills can, in fact, be acquired. In the mid-19th century, other psychologists, such as Ralph Melvin Stogdill, challenged the trait theory, suggesting that leadership skills are acquired through the interactions between individuals and their situations, as opposed to being simply innate.

However good leadership skills are acquired and although the expectations of how leadership is demonstrated have changed over the years, that leadership can be demonstrated in many ways is clear.

Different leadership styles

According to leadership theories, as many as 10 different leadership styles exist. In the past, autocratic leadership – a leadership style in which the leader exercises command and control – was popular, especially in the late 1800s and early 1900s when industrial work was common. Since then, other styles have become more popular: Democratic leadership – a leadership style in which the leader asks for input from everyone on the team – is considered one of the most effective.

Whatever leadership style you exercise, good leadership skills are important, and decades of research make clear that it’s possible to acquire these, regardless of whether you feel you were born with them.

After all, leadership isn’t just theory – it’s the practical, everyday actions that people take in situations to inspire and motivate others.

Additional resources

For additional resources of leadership theories and styles, please see:

Importance of leadership skills for building a professional brand

At work and in life, how others perceive you is incredibly important. After all, others often define leadership – and the skills required to enact it. For example, you may believe you’re trustworthy, but ultimately, it’s up to those around you to form an opinion.

The perception of others about you professionally is called your personal brand. A personal brand is a definable, largely uniform impression based on an individual’s behaviours and achievements. The behaviours and achievements lead people to form opinions about an individual’s experience, expertise and overall competence.

Given that impressions are everything, the importance of leadership skills in building a personal brand can’t be underestimated.

Successful personal brands

To have a successful personal brand, you need to work hard to establish yourself in your industry and ensure that others see you as competent, credible and influential. To do this effectively, you need to possess many important leadership skills, including the ability to communicate effectively and inspire and persuade others.

Your professional brand will follow you for your entire career, and as such, good leadership skills are becoming even more important, especially as we enter what researchers call “the future of work.” This era, which many leading think tanks believe has already begun due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is one in which artificial intelligence (AI), automation, robotics and digitisation will define work for many people.

Despite the increasing use of technology, however, leadership will remain increasingly important as social and emotional skills will be required far more than physical skills.

Good leadership skills are an essential foundation for building a successful personal brand.

Additional resources

For further information on building your personal brand and the leadership skills required for the future of work, please see:

Examples of good leadership and management skills

Good leadership and management skills are the foundation of a successful personal brand. But which leadership skills are the most important? Consider some leadership skills examples that are considered essential for building your personal brand.

Skill 1: Empathy

Empathy, or the ability to sense people’s emotions and imagine what they might be thinking, is an essential leadership skill. The reason is that it enables you to understand how your actions affect others and whether you’re communicating effectively.

Skill 2: The ability to handle complexity

Every day, leaders need to make sense of and communicate complex situations. For this reason, the ability to distil these is important.

If leaders can’t distill complex messages for the people they need to communicate with, they risk confusing or alienating them, and not getting their desired result.

Skill 3: Active listening

Many people believe that a big part of leadership is communicating a message. While this is true, listening can be an even more important part of leadership. Active listening, or the act of listening and responding to another person in a way that improves your mutual understanding of the person’s situation, is a critical leadership skill.

Skill 4: Flexibility

In your career, not every situation will be the same. Not every situation requires the same response either. For this reason, the ability to be flexible in how you approach situations, opportunities and even different people is critical.

If you’re not flexible, disaster can ensue. Inflexible leaders risk alienating people and not understanding what’s required in different situations.

Skill 5: Creativity

In the past, many jobs, especially industrial jobs, required a lot of routines and very little creativity. Not so much nowadays.

Given the pace of change in the 21st century, businesses require creativity as a leadership skill more than ever. If you’re creative, you’re able to transform new and innovative ideas into reality, ask questions and find new solutions.

Skill 6: The ability to inspire

In any workplace, you’re bound to come across numerous types of people. As a leader, you’ll need to help them come on your journey. To do so, the ability to inspire others is important.

If people feel inspired, they’re more likely to believe in your project or mission. If they believe in your mission, they’re more likely to take the actions required to succeed.

Skill 7: Project management

In the workplace, projects are extremely common. In fact, many people will only ever work on projects, and for this reason, the ability to effectively manage a project is an important leadership skill.

Project management requires the ability to plan, budget and ensure that a project is delivered on time and to scope.

Skill 8: Time management

Aside from people, one of the most essential resources in business is time. Time is used to measure productivity and thus time management is critical for leaders.

If you’re good at time management, you’re able to effectively plan your activities and meet deadlines.

Skill 9: The ability to assess strengths and weaknesses

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The job of a leader is not only to see these strengths and weaknesses but also to help people harness them for success.

Leaders are said to be effective at assessing strengths and weaknesses if they can identify what people are good at and help them further develop those skills and strengths while working around or with their weaknesses and areas that require development.

Skill 10: Storytelling

Many might think that stories are only important to novelists or TV producers, but this is far from the truth. The skill of storytelling, or the ability to create a context and a beginning, middle and effective end to something, is an important skill for leaders.

The reason is that information shared via stories is much more likely to be remembered and is generally more interesting and persuasive.

Skill 11: Trustworthiness

Trust is so important for leaders. If those around you trust you, they want to work for and with you and are more than happy to go the extra mile. If they don’t, they can undermine you in myriad ways.

The ability to build trust is an essential leadership skill. Leaders build trust by being truthful, admitting when they’re wrong or they don’t know something, and doing what they say they’ll do.

Skill 12: Excellent verbal communication skills

Communication skills of all types are important for leaders. Verbal communication skills are no exception.

Verbal communication skills are critical as they enable people to communicate their thoughts and feelings as well as what they want to achieve and how. Leaders are said to have good communication skills if they can clearly and simply articulate their goals and desires at work.

Skill 13: Exceptional written communication skills

Written communication skills are equally important leadership skills. In this day and age, when electronic communication is relied upon, written communication skills ensure that those around you understand your goals and desires.

Leaders have exceptional written communication skills if they can simply articulate their messages in a way that their audiences understand.

Skill 14: Positivity

When times get tough, people want someone to lean on. When times aren’t as tough, people want someone to look up to. For these reasons, positivity is essential for leaders.

A positive person is defined as someone who perpetually looks for (and points out) the positives in any given situation, without being fake or condescending.

Skill 15: Reliability

At work, people need dependable and predictable leaders. In other words, they want to know that someone can be relied upon to provide a clear vision and help them if they get stuck. For this reason, reliability is an essential leadership skill.

Reliable leaders can be counted upon to deliver on their promises and help others if required.

Skill 16: Persuasiveness

Diversity of thought, background and opinion characterise workplaces. Not everyone will agree, and leaders may need to work hard to bring others onboard with their vision and encourage them to deliver on it.

Persuasiveness, which is the ability to encourage and motivate others to believe in your cause and do what you desire, helps leaders do just this.

Skill 17: Charisma

As regards communication, it isn’t just what you say, but how you say it. For this reason, the ability to be charismatic is an important leadership skill. If you’re charismatic, you’re said to be able to communicate dynamically, with passion, enthusiasm and self-confidence.

Charismatic leaders are known for their positive thinking, which they display through positive body language. Their charisma helps build the respect and trust of others.

Skill 18: Strategic thinking

Behind every great business is an even greater strategy, which is a comprehensive plan for how to achieve a set of objectives.

Strategic thinking is critical for leaders. The reason is that the business environment changes constantly, and leaders need to be relied upon to always assess the situation and understand how the business can better achieve its goals.

Skill 19: The ability to perform well under pressure

Many people believe that the greatest test of leadership is how well a leader performs not when everything is great but when it isn’t. The ability to perform well under pressure is an essential leadership skill because in business, not everything will go according to plan.

A leader who performs well under pressure can calmly and effectively navigate difficult situations.

Skill 20: The ability to help employees find meaning

Employees and managers alike have to believe in what they’re doing. They have to believe, on some level, that the goals they’re working toward are meaningful to them. They need to find meaning in their work.

A good leader can help others do this by clearly explaining a project or an organisation’s vision and how employees are an essential part of that.

A list of five ways to improve your leadership skills.

Source: Smarp "What are the Top Leadership Skills that Make a Great Leader?”

How to improve leadership skills to boost your professional brand

Since your personal brand is with you for your entire career, it’s appropriate, and even desirable, to spend a considerable amount of time developing the skills required for a successful brand. For this reason, it’s important to invest in understanding how to improve your leadership skills.

Here are 10 examples of how to improve your leadership skills.

1. Learn to follow

Learning to lead is about not only leading itself but also learning to follow. Learning to follow means you have no problem giving control to someone else. Instead of feeling threatened, appreciate when someone disagrees with you. Learn to challenge your own thinking, keep an open mind and share credit with others when it’s due.

2. Focus on inspiration

Leaders and aspiring leaders should take every opportunity to inspire those around them. Show those around you that you’re part of the team and invested in everyone succeeding. Practise doing this by listening to those around you and providing encouragement and guidance to those who need it.

3. Practise active listening

To improve your active listening skills, you need to do more than simply listen to what someone is saying. Instead, take the time to see beyond the words and pick up on nonverbal cues, such as eye contact and body language. This can tell you so much about what the person’s feeling.

Then, respond to everything the person has said to you verbally and nonverbally. Doing so will make the other person feel truly understood.

4. Develop situational awareness

To be a good leader, you’ll need to be able to see the bigger picture at your workplace and develop a knack for understanding problems before they occur. Situational awareness is the ability to foresee problems; develop it by understanding the environment around you and thinking and planning for future events.

5. Practise conflict resolution

At work, conflict is just as common as teamwork. For this reason, you’ll need to practise resolving conflicts. To do this, read the situation first before proposing a solution. Try to discuss the issue with all parties, be open to reassigning team members if a serious issue exists, and make sure you monitor the situation if the conflict can’t be resolved.

6. Take on more responsibility

At work, there’s no such thing as a bad opportunity – only a learning opportunity. Taking on more responsibility at work can ensure that you’ll have more opportunities to network and learn, and for this reason, your leadership and general skills will accelerate.

7. Practice discipline

The ability to be disciplined, which is the ability to commit yourself to your work, meet deadlines and achieve what you set out to achieve, is an essential leadership skill, and one that you can develop if it doesn’t come naturally.

To practise being disciplined, start with small changes in your habits. For example, write a list and cross off items after you complete each one, or even try to make changes in your personal life, such as committing to more exercise, a hobby or healthier eating.

8. Understand your strengths and weaknesses

Every leader has strengths and weaknesses, but real leaders truly understand what theirs are.

To deepen your understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, you can do many things. First, create a list of what you perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses. Second, share the list with people you trust and like, and those you don’t, and have them corroborate it – you may be surprised by what you find.

After this, you should try new strategies based on that feedback. You may uncover strengths you never knew existed.

9. Set concrete goals

Great leaders are always reaching for the stars and achieving new and exciting things. For this reason, setting concrete goals is important to improve your leadership skills.

To help you best succeed, these goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

10. Admit when you’ve failed

As a leader, you’ll no doubt achieve great things. However, when things aren’t so great, it can be difficult to admit you were wrong, especially if you fear the consequences.

Doing so, however, is an essential leadership skill.

If you’ve done something wrong (and everyone does), be open and honest about it from the start, and work with your team or business to create a solution. Being honest about your failures can help you build trust.

Further resources

To learn more about how to improve your leadership skills, visit these resources:

A list of five skills needed for effective leadership.

Source: Wrike, “9 Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skills”

How to highlight leadership skills on your resume

A key way to communicate your leadership skills when going for a new job is through your resume. Your resume gives potential employers insight into your personal brand and your leadership capabilities.

Here are five ways to highlight leadership skills on your resume.

1. Quantify measurable results

As regards showcasing leadership skills on your resume, detail matters. Potential employers want to see not just what you’ve achieved but also exactly how you’ve achieved it.

For this reason, describing your achievements measurably is important to demonstrate your leadership skills.

For example, instead of simply saying that a project you led was a success, quantify that success (and your project management leadership skills) by detailing the budget, people and other resources you managed as well as why your project was considered a success.

2. Provide concrete leadership examples

Although it may not seem like it on the surface, you can include many concrete leadership examples on your resume. For example, you may have taken on extra responsibility. If so, describe it. Perhaps you resolved a particularly challenging conflict. Include a short note describing the conflict and how you resolved it.

Providing the extra detail will help potential employers better understand your skills and imagine how you might use them in the role you’re applying for.

3. Tailor your resume to include leadership examples detailed in the job description

A hiring manager or a recruiter who writes a job advertisement is usually looking for candidates with specific skill sets. For this reason, if there are leadership skills described in the job description, do your best to include examples of these on your resume.

For example, perhaps the job description highlights how many staff members you’ll manage or how important time management is. List this exact skill on your resume and describe how you’ve demonstrated it.

4. Use words and titles associated with leadership

If you haven’t had an official leadership position before, it can be difficult to be hired for such a position. However, if you use words and titles associated with leadership, it can help get you across the line.

For example, perhaps you aren’t a manager in your role, but you’ve supervised a number of people as well as trained, mentored and coached others. Perhaps you’ve managed projects.

If you have, ensure that you sprinkle the words “managed,” “trained” and “supervised” throughout your resume, so hiring managers and recruiters can spot your potential.

5. Describe your leadership style

A surefire way to communicate leadership on your resume is to describe your leadership style.

To do so, ensure that you familiarise yourself with the different leadership styles, and then articulate why you have a particular one and how that influences your actions and behaviours.

Leadership is essential to your personal brand

It could be said that two elements are essential to career success: your personal brand and the leadership skills that support it.

Through your everyday interactions, you’re building your personal brand and developing your leadership skills. Successful leaders always have great personal brands, and behind every exceptional personal brand is a great leader.

Build your personal brand with Deakin's Master of Leadership. Contact our enrolment team on 1300 043 524 to find out more.