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The Most Important Skill for a Leader

Choosing a “most important” skill for a leader is quite difficult seeing how there are so many types of leaders in various situations that warrant different skills. Overall, Intelligence would seem to be the most important. But the foundation of leadership skills seem to stem from the technical skills as described in Katz’s Three Skills Approach. Out of the three approaches, technical, human, and conceptual, the technical skill is simply put “proficiency, based on specific knowledge, in a particular area of work” (Rowe, 53). More specifically, it is the skill of knowing what is expected of oneself and others in a particular area. Not knowing what is expected of yourself would lead to a lack of trust and make it particularly difficult to “model the way” as suggested in The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes and Posner, 44).

Additionally and most importantly, the technical skill encompasses intelligence, competency, and confidence that will “help leaders be more knowledgeable and insightful” (Northouse, 23). After all, if one knows their job well, then their confidence and determination can build and their followers will learn to trust them and use them as a way to model their own performance.

As we have learned in the last module, leaders are not born, they are made. And a skill like charisma infers something that people are just born with. Northouse describes charisma as “a leader’s special magnetic charm and appeal…” (Northouse, 24). No doubt that can make an effective leader easily – but seeing as it is a skill that someone is born with, there is little one can do to improve their charisma. The perks of charisma include a strong role model, competence, articulate clear goals, communicate high expectations, and being an inspiration (Northouse, 24-25). All of those, with an exception of the last one, are things one can master with just intelligence – enforcing my choice that intelligence is the most important. But the trait that I characterize with leadership would be intelligence and sociability. I have a supervisor now who is highly intelligent. Smart, helpful, and a great leader – but she lacks sociability which makes it difficult to go to at times and makes working with them less than pleasant. The result is less inspiration and motivation.

Out of the leaders profiled, there is no close second to George Washington. The intelligence and awareness paired with a high communication skill held the country together in an amazing way. When the Whiskey Tax was introduced to pay off the debt from the revolutionary war, a rebellion broke out. After tensions rose, Washington himself met with the rebels to negotiate. That sort of communication paired with intelligence and confidence was an important asset to our country’s founding. As popular as Washington was, he did not have charisma. He was not the loud boisterous charlton some of us see was a charismatic leader. Instead, he communicated in a respectful manner so that everyone, educated and not, could understand and appreciate. This just goes to show that one, leaders are not just born, they are built through experience. Two, charisma is not necessary for a leader, but it helps. And three, as long as one it intelligent and competent, their foundation as a leader will remain strong. Additionally, this conclusion would suggest something as inherited as charisma would be the hardest for a leader to learn.


Kouzes, J. M. and Posner, B. Z. (2017). The Leadership Challenge. (6th ed). Hoboken: Wiley.

Northouse, P. G. (2018). Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice. (4th ed). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Rowe, W. G., and Laura K. G. (2019). Cases in Leadership. (5th ed). Los Angeles: SAGE


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