Leadership Skills in Transition: Skills Leaders Need Today

Written by Christian Hener & Andreas Weis on Aug. 9, 2023

When did you last check whether you or your leadership team have the leadership skills they need for the next crisis?

The world, and therefore the demands on organisations, are constantly changing, but they have been strikingly drastic and rapid in recent years. And when this world changes, leaders have to move with it. This has not only been the case since Corona – the upheavals caused by the pandemic and the measures accompanying it were just particularly obvious. So obvious, in fact, that by now, it has become clear to everyone that good leadership requires far more than mere technical expertise.

In this constant state of change, leaders must continually demonstrate great adaptability and proactively prepare for future obstacles. Leadership skills play a central role here, because they make the difference between good and excellent leaders.

Essential skills for leaders

However, it would be naïve to think that the same leadership skills always move leaders forward. When the world changes, so do the framework conditions and requirements for companies. Only managers who constantly develop their own skills will be able to react adequately to changes and crises in the future.

The white paper Leadership Skills in Transition: Skills Leaders Need Today is based on the experience of EO Executives' consultants in numerous interviews with companies and leaders, and identifies the 5 leadership skills that are essential today:

  1. Emotion management
  2. Crisis management skills
  3. Digital adaptability
  4. Diversity management
  5. An agile mindset

It explains which specific aspects belong to each of these skills – and how these emphases have shifted over the last decade. The same term can mean very different things in the context of leadership skills, and it is worth examining and comparing this with your own understanding. In addition, the white paper offers a comprehensive set of questions for each leadership skill, which can be the starting point for assessing the respective competence.

Whitepaper: Leadership Skills in Transition: Skills Leaders Need Today

Whitepaper - Leadership Skills im Wandel: Fähigkeiten, die Führungskräfte heute brauchen

The whitepaper can be download free by all interested parties:


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1. Emotion management

Leadership comes from within

Emotions influence all of us in one way or another. Emotions motivate (or inhibit) us, control our focus and directly influence our performance. To see them merely as potential disruptive factors on the path to success falls short. Our emotions not only have the potential to put obstacles in our way, but also the potential to inspire and strengthen interpersonal bonds.

Emotion management comprises two major sub-areas. Managing one's own emotions as a leader is one of them. Only those who have the skills for good emotion management can reliably demonstrate qualities such as resilience, the ability to deal with conflict and openness, regardless of the situation, and lead a company safely through a crisis. Leadership comes from within.

Empathic leaders and their impact

The second sub-area is the interplay of emotions in the team. Leaders must not only be in control of their own emotions, but also be able to recognise and respond appropriately to the emotions of their team members. Emotion management enables leaders to act empathically, resolve conflicts and create a motivating work environment.

A leader with outstanding emotion management can not only regulate their own emotions, but also create an emotionally fruitful work environment for their employees. Empathic leaders create trust and connection and inspire their team to achieve peak performance together.

2. Crisis management skills

Not just adaptation and resilience

The Corona pandemic has made it clear that crisis management skills are essential for every leader. A leader should be aware that one of their core tasks is to lead the company successfully and safely through crises.

Crisis skills should not be limited to reactive measures, but should also include proactive action. Good crisis management begins long before the crisis by staying informed and not allowing oneself to be surprised by developments that have already become apparent in advance.

Successfully through the crisis: Key strengths of a leader

If the company nevertheless enters a crisis, a manager with good crisis management skills knows how to navigate emergency situation with as little damage as possible. They do not see crises primarily as obstacles but as opportunities for long-term improvement.

Andreas Weis

»Instead of simply reacting to difficulties, a true leader should take the opportunity to check structures and processes in the company for weaknesses and adapt them.«

Andreas Weis

In addition to anticipation and adaptability, resilience and innovation are also required when it comes to crisis management skills. An outstanding leader can make difficult decisions and drive important innovations even under pressure. In this aspect, crisis management skills and emotion management are closely linked.


3. Digital adaptability

The ability to grow with technology

Progressive digitalisation has permanently changed the way companies work, especially in recent years. The increasing establishment of the home office enables more and more people to work remotely.

For managers, this means new challenges, as they have to ensure that the team works towards a common goal in a coordinated manner despite the physical distance. In addition, remember that socio-economic differences as well as different levels of knowledge between team members, become much more apparent in the home office. There is a great deal of overlap here with the skill of diversity management.

Digital literacy for modern leadership

A modern manager must be IT-savvy and understand the opportunities and limitations of artificial intelligence. The meaningful use of digital tools is becoming more crucial to increase productivity and achieve strategic goals. That's why a leader must not only be willing to experiment, but also motivate the team to try out new tools and get the maximum benefit from them.

To completely outsource this important core area of modern leadership to the IT department falls far short. Those who delegate digital competence will lose touch and will no longer be able to shape change.

4. Diversity management

Use diversity profitably

A modern leader recognises that a team's true strength lies in its members' diversity. Diversity is not only an ethical obligation, but also a competitive advantage. Every voice in the team matters and can bring unique impulses, perspectives and ideas. Today, leaders who do not actively seek diversity, multiplicity and contradiction will overlook important aspects of their environment and increasingly fail in that environment.

For true inclusion, however, discrimination must be avoided. This requires a trained eye and skill in dealing with people – but above all, it requires honesty and the courage to set a good example yourself.

Honest self-reflection and intercultural competence

An excellent leader promotes honest self-reflection, not only in their team members, but also in themself. They know that no one is free from prejudice and that many forms of discrimination cannot be recognised at first glance.

Intercultural competence also plays an important role, for example in order to be successful in international business environments. A leader must be able to move confidently, even in culturally foreign environments. In one's own team, intercultural competence is important in order to cushion political-cultural conflicts.


5. An agile mindset

The strength of continuous development

An agile mindset is essential to adapt to a changing world. A good leader never "finishes learning". Rather, they must continuously develop.

Christian Hener

»Only leaders who continue their education and remain dynamic will have the leadership skills they need in the future.«

Christian Hener

This sounds reasonable to most people and should be largely consensual. But what does it look like in practice? What percentage of your own working time do you invest continuously in your further development, specialist books, coaching, peer groups or seminars?

At the moment, there are two aspects in particular that require a change in thinking by managers. The first of these aspects is the development that hierarchies are increasingly flattening out and more collaborative work is required. A leader must not place themself above their team members, but must work alongside them towards the common goal.

Learning ability is the key to good leadership

The second aspect is the new work mentality. Employees from generations Y and Z, in particular are becoming increasingly aware of their personal value to companies. Managers must respond appropriately to this self-awareness if the company is to remain attractive as an employer. Mere appreciation through praise is not enough; more and more employees expect their performance to be reflected in their working conditions.

Whatever challenges companies will face in the future – a manager with an agile mindset can adapt to them flexibly and intelligently. This ability to learn is the key to good leadership, because it is the basic prerequisite for acquiring all other important leadership skills.


More information on the most important leadership skills

Whitepaper for companies and executives

Would you like to learn more about which leadership skills correlate with economic success? Would you like to assess a potential candidate in terms of leadership aptitude? Are you looking for a way to test your own skills?

In the white paper Leadership Skills in Transition: Skills Leaders Need Today you will find comprehensive information, further resources and a detailed set of questions for assessing each leadership skill presented in this article. Download the whitepaper today for free and learn what skills matter:

Whitepaper: Leadership Skills in Transition: Skills Leaders Need Today

Whitepaper - Leadership Skills in Transition

The whitepaper can be download free by all interested parties:

Read Whitepaper Now

The authors

Christian Hener

Partner, EO Executives Austria

Christian Hener

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Andreas Weis

Partner, EO Executives Germany

Andreas Weis

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