What Is the Skills Leadership Theory? Definition and Uses

The skills leadership theory defines effective leadership with a set of skills rather than personality traits. By measuring a leader’s performance by the skills they possess, the skills leadership theory allows anyone interested in becoming a leader to learn the skills required to become one.

Skills Approach (Chap 3) Leadership by Northouse, 8th ed.

Why is the skills leadership theory important?

The importance of the skills leadership theory stems from its new definition of what constitutes a leader. In doing this, it has several important benefits, including:

It judges leaders by their accomplishments

The fact that the skills leadership theory evaluates a leader’s performance based on what they can accomplish rather than their personality traits is one of its most significant features. Executives and other management personnel can better understand which strategies will yield the desired results thanks to the skills leadership theory.

By enabling leaders to evaluate the skills they currently possess, those they can acquire, and those that are most useful in particular circumstances, it also helps leaders themselves better understand their roles.

It promotes inclusivity

According to the skills leadership theory, anyone can become a leader, regardless of their background, because it outlines learnable skills for success. By developing new skills and learning how to use them in a leadership role, those who aren’t typically seen as leaders can gain the confidence to do so.

It helps promote effective leaders

The skills leadership theory aids executives and other management personnel in finding the leaders they need when they are looking for the right candidates. It assists them in identifying specific skill gaps in their industry and creating training curricula to fill those gaps.

It encourages balance

The skills leadership theory encourages developing a balanced and varied skill set that is applicable in a variety of situations rather than emphasizing a small number of skills for effective leadership. This not only provides leaders with these skills but also teaches them the value of them and how to use them, preparing them for many aspects of their job.

What is the skills leadership theory?

Instead of focusing on personality traits, the skills leadership theory defines effective leadership as a set of skills. The skills leadership theory enables anyone interested in becoming a leader to learn the skills necessary to become one by measuring a leader’s performance by the skills they possess.

The theory identifies three categories of abilities that are crucial for a successful leader. They are as follows:


Conceptual abilities are what enable leaders to develop solutions to significant issues and theories and gauge a leader’s capacity to work with novel concepts. They include skills such as:


Technical skills are the specialized knowledge needed to carry out a position’s regular duties. Technical aptitude gauges a leader’s capacity to operate the equipment necessary to carry out their duties successfully. Depending on the job, these abilities can vary, but frequently include:


Interpersonal abilities known as “human skills” aid in team management. These skills measure a leaders ability to work with others. The definition of human skills is broad, but frequently these skills include:

Who uses the skills leadership theory?

People can apply the skills leadership theory to their regular work tasks because it has many applications. Some who may find the theory useful include:

Investors and decision-makers

The skills leadership theory aids those looking to increase productivity in their company in identifying certain employees who have the potential to be leaders. They can find new leaders among a large pool of candidates by understanding the abilities that enable leaders to achieve their goals, increasing their chances of finding those who can best support them in their success.

Mentors and current leaders

It’s critical for a leader to identify team members with growth potential. Leaders can mentor their staff and increase workplace productivity by being aware of the skills their employees already have and those they can develop. If an employee has a chance to advance, mentoring them to help them develop these leadership skills can increase their chances of getting promoted and improve their effectiveness once they do.


Colleagues can learn from one another using the skills leadership theory, strengthening the whole team and enhancing morale at work. When staff members are aware of the skills leadership theory, they can offer to assist their peers in acquiring new skills or honing existing ones. Coworkers can encourage one another when they see that a colleague has leadership potential.

Team leaders

The leadership skills theory’s listed abilities don’t just apply to leaders. It’s important to understand each team member’s strengths and skills in order to create an efficient and well-rounded team. In the event that a team leader needs assistance in leading a project, it is also useful for identifying specific employees who can do so.

Tips for practicing the skills leadership theory

There are a few ways you can use the leadership theory in the workplace when putting it into practice. When using the theory, consider the following tips:

Remain attentive

It takes close observation to identify the skills your leaders or employees possess. It’s useful to take note of the abilities they employ and how well they employ them when performing daily tasks. When you are aware of an employee’s strengths, you can help them develop and direct them toward potential promotions.

Be proactive

When you observe that a worker needs assistance in mastering a particular skill, think about playing a proactive role in their development. It is beneficial to teach someone about the skills leadership theory if they are already on the path to promotion so they can comprehend the skills that can help them lead successfully. Promoting a leader’s development actively can raise morale and productivity at work.

Encourage growth

You can help staff members identify their own strengths and potential for growth by teaching them about the skills leadership theory. Employee confidence and productivity can rise when their skills are improved. By enabling team members to assist one another in developing new skills or forming balanced teams to complete tasks and projects, it can also enhance teamwork.


Who created the skills leadership theory?

When Robert Katz published his article “Skills of an Effective Administrator” in the “Harvard Business Review” in 1955, the skills theory of leadership became a well-known theory. Katz observed executives and discovered three skill sets that they all shared and regularly used.

What are the 7 core skills of a leader?

7 Essential Qualities of a Leader
  • Clear Communication. …
  • Strong Ethics and Standards. …
  • Organization. …
  • Expresses Expectations. …
  • Nurtures Growth. …
  • Flexible to Change. …
  • Creates Feeling of Togetherness.

What is Katz three skills approach?

Robert Katz identified three leadership competencies as the fundamental personal competencies necessary for leadership: technical competencies, human competencies, and conceptual competencies. These three abilities are necessary for leaders to have in order to maximize their performance.

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