4 Non-Leadership Skills Every Great Leader Needs

HR insights and tips with Jeff Havens

Hello, and welcome to another installment of HR Intervention! This article is for anyone who wants to be a great leader, whether they’re already in a leadership position or want to be seen as a leader among colleagues.

And it has nothing to do with leadership.

At least, not on the surface. Leadership articles almost always focus on leadership skills – listening to others, learning from failure, having a vision, etc. But what about those essentials which at face-value have nothing to do with leadership? There are at least four of them, which just so happens to be the number I used in the title. How conveniently coincidental!

Public Speaking Prowess

All leaders, from team leads up to CEOs, are constantly expected to address groups of people, and you’ll be better respected if you aren’t stumbling over your own words and/or wetting yourself with fear.

Public speaking is a skill just like any other, which means you can get better with practice (and you can do that in your basement, by the way).

Comfort in Front of a Camera

As a leader, you’ll probably need to be in front of a camera at some point. Maybe you’ll be interviewed, or put together some internal promo videos with you as a featured speaker, or perhaps you’ll get invited to participate in a panel discussion at a conference where they’re going to project your gigantic face onto an even more gigantic screen. The point is, you should learn how to not look directly into the camera (unless you’re directed to), how not to fidget endlessly, and how to be comfortable when you’re literally in the spotlight.

Fortunately, this is also a skill you can practice in your basement. And don’t worry too much if you don’t think you have a face for television. Decades of unattractive singers and guitarists have made the viewing public very tolerant of looking at less-than-perfect-looking people. Thanks, Steven Tyler!

Proper Dining Etiquette

Most leaders have a lot of meals with a lot of different people – employees, shareholders, vendors, clients, government regulators, and hopefully a few groupies.

Learning how to talk with a mouth half-full of food is hardly the most important skill in the world, but it can spell the difference between making a good impression and hastily apologizing while you wipe mashed potatoes off of someone else’s face. Which I’ve now had to do twice. When will I learn?

Power Napping 

Read a biography of a leader you admire, and odds are you’ll learn that he or she has learned how to operate on fairly little sleep. They also know how to shut down for 20 minutes and wake up recharged and ready to go for another several hours. Training yourself to relax, even for a short period of time, will give your brain the break it needs to return to optimum performance. Plus, this is easily the most enjoyable leadership advice you’ll ever be given.

Improving at any one of these will make you into a better leader than you already are, and improving at all four of them is easily within your reach. I recommend you start with napping. That’s what I’m about to do.

Another way to become a great leader is by knowing what NOT to do – check out Eve Ash’s article on the eight qualities of bad leadership and how to avoid them!

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-808-0884, email, or visit

Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert