Top Leadership Skills for Managers

|From a Soldier’s Diary|

Having served for more than two decades in one of the finest armies in the world, I gained tremendous insights into the value system prevalent in the forces and why they do what they do. And I learned some great leadership skills while operating in the line of fire that I would now like to share with my audience.

1. Be a Magician.

Your team must know that the buck stops at you - that when they approach you with their problems, they will definitely get a solution. The way you talk to them, the way you listen to them, the gentleness with which you channelize their efforts, your sense of humor especially when the tide is not in your favor, your mere presence as a mature and caring person- in short, your aura as someone who commands their respect and rules their hearts- that's what turns you as a leader into a magician. Remember, you are not there to cox and cajole your team, you are there to inspire and energize.

2. The Invisible Leader.

Nelson Mandela practiced invisible leadership. Due to his mammoth efforts, South Africa won its independence. His team members finally reached their destination and thought they did it but he was the bridge over which they walked to embrace their goal. That was his success. He spent 27 years of his life in prison under inhuman conditions, cut off from the world. But he continued to command great respect from his countrymen. He was not there among them but his presence was felt everywhere. He was an invisible leader.

3. No Micro Management.

A leader should focus on macro issues and once he has explained them to his team, he should trust and leave the execution to the junior leadership. A leader should not practice micro- management as it curtails the initiative of his team. This leads to an outcome most bosses are not familiar with- effortlessness. This aspect assumes all the more importance in a Work from Home (WFH) scenario where freedom of action at the managerial level is the key to efficient organization of time and resources. 

4. Broad Shoulders.

When your team fails, let the blame fall on your shoulders. When they succeed, let the credit go to them. In addition, always praise publicly but criticize in private. Preserving the dignity and self-respect of your teammates is your utmost responsibility.

5. Lead from the Front.   

No-one prefers double standards. If you ask your team to work on a holiday, you must be seen around. If your team is going without dinner, so must you. This helps you come across as a strong and fully integrated individual who believes in practicing what he preaches. This automatically turns you into a lighthouse whom everyone trusts and follows willingly.

6. Catching the Bull by the Horns.

Tough situations offer excellent opportunities for growth. You just need courage to take initiative, negotiate the first few hurdles and stand there like a rock. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. 

7. Think it through. 

Well thought out is well executed. Plan and include all angles. Do not forget to plan for unforeseen contingencies. As Albert Einstein said:  If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.

8. Nailing it down.

Never start a project or task without deciding on its scope, timeline and the authority required to execute it. The last point is significant when working on cross-team projects. The SPOC (single point of contact) must always be defined for any project who should be fully accountable for its success or failure.

9. Transforming Failure. 

Dealing with failure in an objective and fearless manner is an important part of a leader’s mental makeup. He looks at failure as one of those events that prepare him for the ultimate success. This is the real test of a leader's character. Your ability to rise from the ashes and hold your head high during adversity is what distinguishes you from ordinary mortals. 

10. Nourishing the Fighter.

It is always the man behind the machine who makes all the difference. Therefore, you should focus on nurturing your team members not only professionally but personally as great human beings too. Shape their character. Fuel their imagination. Encourage their creativity. Give your team the confidence that they can and they will.

11. Camaraderie. 

You should cultivate an intense bonding with your subordinates, ordering them around is not enough. It is this sense of belonging that would see you through all storms. When required, correct them. And if the occasion so demands, celebrate. Never hesitate to show them your human side. Never hesitate to connect with them at a deeper level.

12. Let Truth be told.

Develop the courage of conviction to speak the truth. Beating around the bush never helps anybody. While you are expected to express yourself in a polite and professional manner as a manager, be firm since your meekness is not going to serve the organizational interest. Therefore, let the truth be told, always.

13. Bridge the Gap.

Let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Let there be no communication gap between various individuals or departments. You must create processes and systems that are transparent and methodical. That indeed is your job as a manager.

14. Be Proud.

Be a proud contributor since your sense of pride transforms the quality of everything you do. You are not doing a mere job anywhere. It’s your life. Give it your best and the best will certainly come back to you.

15. Chetwode Revisited.

The honor of the organization you serve, comes first.

The welfare and honor of your subordinates, comes next. 

Your own comfort and welfare come last, always and every time.


Do You Know the Secret?


  1. Very true and interesting. I admire you as a great leader.

  2. Absolutely true and very well said. These words are inspirational and someone can have great learning by following this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Very true lessons..and very well disseminated.....Admirable sir...

  4. Very well narrated. This is authentic information with first hand information. Great👍👏. Keep it up..

  5. Really awesome sir. These qualities should be there in each leader.

    1. Thank you so much. I would love to know your name.

  6. Very beautifully narrated sir. 👍

  7. Very well said beta ,these words are the picture of ur own personality. God bless u always with these qualities ,be a great leader always.

  8. Respected Sir...I think this is the masterpiece till date. An actual delivery of practical aspects and attended domains have been demonstrated within a spectrum of real leadership which truly and exactly define it.Extraordinary....Regards

    1. Thank you so much Ankur.

      I agree that leadership is basically a practical test of your acumen which you learn on the job, in the thick of action. Accordingly, I have created a few pointers in this direction as a guideline, based on my own experience.

  9. Very comprehensive write up.So practical.

  10. This is my Bible on leadership. In times to come, I am going to revisit these 15 points again and again. Being a boss is always easy, but to be a leader needs courage. Thank you for sharing your journey as a leader in all these years.

    1. Thank you so much Aanchal. These 15 points are aimed at young Managers like you who will be tomorrow's leaders.

  11. Sir, All great qualities/ Skills of a true Leader are very well expressed.Truely Inspirational for all Managers to adopt/ practice to become successful Leaders. Wonderful article.Thanks. Regards. MV Kumar (Veteran)

    1. Thank you so much. Would love to see you more often in this space.

  12. Sir, you have listed all the qualities a true leader should have.
    I strongly feel that these points should be further eloberated and published as a book so that it comes as handy to the people who wants be a leader.
    Great writing and I was fortunate to work with a leader like you.

    1. Vinay, I believe a book on leadership is definitely a great idea. I was also fortunate to have such a sincere person like you in my team. Thank you so much for being part of my life.


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