Avoid Being the Boss People Leave: Pick Three Skills

A great leader learns every day. Each experience comes with a lesson. How to learn from these lessons helps you grow to make better decisions or avoid a future mistake.

  • The Society of Human Resource Management released The Skills Gap 2019 showing alarmingly high statistics in multiple skills that employees are missing in the workplace including “30% of candidates that do not have the right workplace (soft) skills.”
  • “People quit their boss, not the company” is a common quote shared in HR circles and leadership articles. It’s a separate discussion point that can be debatable and best left for another day, but it does help us delve into leader’s skill gaps.

By self-evaluation, listening to others and openness to learn, take on your own self-development to avoid being the boss people leave.

There are many articles touting the top X number of skills every leader must have. Ultimately, personal growth requires a variety of skills. You choose the ones that your current environment, culture, team, and employees need.

 1. What Skills Do You Need Now?

Your current job, role in the organization, leadership level and company culture will have an impact on which skills to develop. I came across two articles that can serve as a starting point for selecting a few skills dependent on where you are in your role:

The 6 Fundamental Skills Every Leader Should Practice list skills that are more specific to driving the business.

  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Creating and rewarding the team
  • Results
  • Learning
  • Developing Self

7 Brutal Truths Every Smart Leader Needs to Constantly Revisit list soft skills that will help build relationships with your employees.

  • Remove fear through collaboration, innovation, engagement
  • Build trust
  • Listen
  • Be positive
  • Take action
  • Set boundaries
  • Love

Each play a necessary part in leadership. There are many more skills that can be listed which impact your leadership career. These thirteen skills are examples that can serve as ideas to meet your current leadership position.

2. What Feedback Have You Received?

Your best source for selecting skills comes from your employees and peers. They are the ones that are working most closely with you daily. They see your strengths and weaknesses in multiple situations.

In a one on one conversation, ask how you can better lead and/or support them in their role?  Allow them to share with you their feedback. They will tell you.

Your boss can also be a source for feedback but recognize that the deliverables are different than what your peers and employees may be seeking in your leadership. You job will require results and an expected contribution to the overall business success, but the skills may need to be different if coming from the boss rather than employees.

Both will be needed, so think through which will best balance your success in the position you’re currently holding.

3. Why Pick Three?

I recommend picking three skills to focus on at a time. Three are manageable. Read books and articles or listen to podcasts with a more specific theme. With this specific focus, practicing helps you apply what you learn more closely and immediately.

Narrowing down to three skills allows you to experiment without trying to juggle too many competing priorities. Measure your success while continuing with a busy work schedule through small actions and deliverables.

Enlist support and/or help from others. As you develop and grow in three skills, be very specific in your actions. Assess capability through conversations with your team or peers. Revisit the habit you’ve established after six weeks, a few months, or a year down the road.

How have you incorporated the new skill successfully into your daily routine?  Are you achieving the desired outcome? Are your employees and peers responding positively?

Once you’ve mastered the skill, then select your next set of skills reflective of current role.


The digital age is filled with information and advice. As a leader, we have many commitments and responsibilities with little time to do it all.

Self-learning and development cannot be sacrificed. We can continue to grow and learn by focusing on three skills that are most relevant to our current role while building our career.

Your best source for selecting skills is from those that are surrounding you right now. Let them help you create your path to being a better leader.

When you include your team, they will contribute to your success. When you’re listening to them, they know that you’re also providing them the best support for their success.

They will not quit a boss that is looking to them for growth and development. They may leave for a variety of other reasons, but you’ll not be the reason during their exit interview.

What three skills are you going to work on based on your current role and feedback you’ve received from your team or peers?

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