6 Critical Skills to Master as a Business Leader


When you’re running your own business, you are pulled in a million different directions daily. You know that you should be building your leadership skills, but it can be challenging to know which skills to focus on first—especially when free time is at a premium.

For tips on the key skills entrepreneurs should develop to help them grow as leaders, we asked members from YEC Next this question.

Q. Given that business leaders rarely have the time to learn new business skills, what’s one skill or ability you recommend they master, and why is it so valuable?

1. Time management

Mastery of time management is a must for success. When time is optimized, leaders can solely focus on the task at hand. The secret to focus is lack of distractions; top leaders are not distracted by futile items. This is also where 80/20 thinking arrives. Focus should always be on the tasks that provide the biggest impacts, and the rest should be delegated. —Ron Lieback, ContentMender

2. Listening skills

Become the best listener. Leaders are often comfortable speaking, but they do not recognize the art of active listening. It requires preparing in advance for meetings and remembering to spend more time listening than speaking, and using tactics like mirroring—repeating back what you’ve heard to ensure you understand the intended message. Master this skill for business and life in general. —Ryan Meghdies, Tastic Marketing Inc.

3. Communication skills

As Richard Branson writes in his book The Virgin Way, “Building a new business takes more than technological skills and creative genius—it needs people.” Learning to communicate with all kinds of people is very helpful. I had thought if I build it and it is a great idea, people would come—but I learned that is not the case without getting the word out. So I did some research, identified the very best and most successful people in the industry, and then worked to engage them to learn a few things. —Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

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4. Employee motivation

The leader of a company can’t do it all on their own. Leaders must surround themselves with people with experience, and trust them to get the job done, and most of all, motivate them to achieve. Nothing is more powerful than a leader who inspires and motivates employees to excel in their individual roles. A leader that exhibits courage, realism, and integrity will create a team willing to embody and fulfill the company’s mission and vision. —Kyle WigginsKeteka

5. Understanding people

People, people, people: Business is all about people, whether it’s software or coffee. Your market consists of people; your company consists of people. Understanding human behaviors and motivation will help you sell and build a good team, so ask yourself, what problem are you solving? How painful is it to X segment of people? How can you make your customers and your team more successful? —James Hu, Jobscan

6. Maximizing your time

How do you learn? Is it through reading, videos, doing, or teaching? Once you know what works best for you, figure out how to build that type of learning into your weekly workflow. For me, it’s dedicating 30 minutes on a Friday to either reading long-form content, taking online courses, or talking to people that have more experience than me. That is the best way for me to absorb new info. —Jim Huffman, GrowthHit

RELATED: 4 Leadership Lessons I Learned From the Vineyard

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