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UK Workers Have Spoken: Leadership Skills “Most Important” for Leaders To Have


If you thought problem-solving skills, teamwork, and conflict resolution are among the top soft skills expected of managers by UK employees – you would be incorrect. 

Correct: if you guessed that, leadership skills are what UK employees consider most important for managers and leaders to possess.     

A survey conducted by digits polled working adults to find an answer to the following question “What, according to them, is the most important soft skill managers should have?”

The answers to this question are what we’ll explore in the rest of this post.  

We will:

  1. Explore the findings of this research and unpack the insights behind the importance of leadership skills.
  1. We will also explore the impact of leadership skills on employee engagement and understand the cost that results from a lack of leadership skills in organisations.
  1. Introduce you to specialist CMI qualifications designed for people interested in building leadership skills to grow in their work and careers.  

The Key Findings 

From a high level, leadership skills were voted critical, accounting for 47.85% of the votes.

Overall, the top five skills voted as key include: 

  1. Leadership skills: 47.85%
  1. Verbal communication skills: 35.4%
  1. Teamwork skills: 35.01%
  1. Empathy: 30.18%
  2. Problem-solving skills: 28.52%

Interestingly, written communication skills make up the bottom of the results at 7.62%  

Conflict Resolution Soft Skills Don’t Matter?

Furthermore, and this may come as a surprise, this research reveals that conflict resolution is less desirable as a soft skill in managers, accounting for 14.89%. 

The UK Cities Where Leadership Skills Are Most in Demand

The survey reveals 20 cities where people are most interested in improving their leadership skills. The city of Manchester being number one, the list includes

Rank City % of searches related to leadership and management per 1,000,000 people
8Kingston upon Hull35.0

Facts About Leadership Skills Training That Are Worth Knowing

  1. According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report, 49% of global L&D teams prioritise leadership and management training, followed closely by upskilling and reskilling employees at 46%.
  1. Google’s Oxygen Manager research project highlights coaching ability, effective communication skills, and support for team career development as top behaviours of good managers, all of which can be developed through leadership skills training.
  1. In a 2021 Training magazine survey of 750 L&D professionals, organisations reported allocating 25% of their total training investment to leadership development in 2020/21. This is a decrease from the peak investment of 30% in 2017, partly due to increased funding for remote and virtual learning opportunities.
  1. LinkedIn’s 2022 report reveals that 18% of L&D professionals in high-performance organisations consider leadership skills as the most important skill for the future.
  2. The corporate leadership training market is projected to reach $26.7 billion by 2024, indicating a shift towards upskilling existing employees for management and leadership roles instead of hiring new talent.

What Are the Research-Backed Costs for Organisations Due to a Lack of Leadership Skills?

Decreased Employee Productivity: A study conducted by Gallup found that organisations with poor leadership experience a 50% decrease in employee productivity compared to those with strong leadership. 

Increased Employee Turnover: Research by the Center for Creative Leadership indicates that ineffective leadership significantly contributes to employee turnover, with approximately 60% of voluntary turnover attributable to poor leadership behaviour. 

Lower Employee Engagement: The Corporate Leadership Council discovered that organisations with ineffective leaders have 65% lower employee engagement levels than those with strong leadership.

Reduced Innovation and Creativity: A study published in the Journal of Leadership and Organisational Studies found that poor leadership negatively impacts employee creativity and innovation, leading to missed opportunities for organisational growth. 

Higher Costs of Employee Training and Development: Research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reveals that organisations with ineffective leaders spend 140% times more on employee training and development than those with strong leadership. 

Increased Workplace Conflicts and Disputes: According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, poor leadership contributes to higher workplace conflicts and disputes, reducing teamwork and collaboration. 

Damaged Organisational Reputation and Brand: Research conducted by Weber Shandwick, in partnership with KRC Research, found that leadership issues and scandals negatively impact a company’s reputation and brand, decreasing customer trust and loyalty. 

CMI Qualifications: Specialist Training for Professionals Interested in Developing Leadership Skills.

What Are CMI Qualifications?

CMI qualifications are highly regarded training programmes that provide long-term career and professional development benefits for a management career. They are renowned for their reputation and recognition within the management and business sector in the UK.  

These management qualifications equip aspiring and established professionals with the skills and knowledge to excel as leaders and managers. 

With a focus on practical application, you learn the skills & expertise to thrive in your management, leadership and senior role.  

Why Do CMI Qualifications Come Highly Recommended for Developing Leadership Skills?

Developing self-awareness

Training with CMI equips professionals with the tools to increase self-awareness, allowing for your strengths to develop, weaknesses to be exposed, and develop your unique leadership approach.

This heightened self-awareness becomes the cornerstone of personal development, resulting in impactful leadership.

Practical skill acquisition

Leadership training at CMI equips professionals with practical expertise and skills readily applicable to real-life leadership situations. 

These acquired abilities, ranging from strategic thinking and decision-making to effective team management, empower individuals to effectively tackle intricate challenges.

Networking and peer learning

These qualifications afford valuable networking and collaborative learning experiences. 

Connecting with peers who share similar goals allows professionals to exchange ideas, gain new perspectives, and cultivate meaningful connections, all contributing to continuous personal and professional development.

Credibility and career advancement

They indicate credibility and enhance your professional reputation, increasing your chances of career advancement. The recognition of these qualifications unlocks opportunities which professionals can leverage for career growth.

Continuous professional development (CPD)

CMI training fosters an interest in continuous learning and development, highlighting the need to keep abreast of the latest leadership practices and trends. 

This dedication to CPD means professionals stay ahead in their field, maintaining their position at the forefront of their industry.

Recognition and support

CMI offers substantial support when pursuing their credentials, giving you access to a wealth of resources, personalised mentoring, and continuous guidance. 

This support system is crucial in helping professionals complete their qualifications and achieve their leadership development goals.

Why Do CMI Qualifications Come Highly Recommended for Developing Leadership Skills?

Exploring CMI qualifications for career progression is a fantastic opportunity for management professionals like you to enhance your leadership skills and drive your career forward.

Through these certifications, you gain industry-recognised credentials, an expanded knowledge base, and access to a supportive network of fellow Chartered Managers. 

Embracing CMI qualifications demonstrates your dedication to excellence, unlocking new opportunities and positioning you for long-term success in the rapidly changing management sector.

Take the leap and invest in your future with CMI!

The specific benefits you receive include:

1. Access to digital learning resources: Gain unrestricted access to cutting-edge learning materials, empowering you to study at your own pace.

2. Routes to becoming a Chartered Manager: Discover diverse pathways to achieving Chartered Manager status (the highest and esteemed recognition of a manager’s skills & experience), tailoring your journey to suit your career goals.

3. Access to CMI Membership: Unlock exclusive resources, networks, and events, enriching your professional growth and connections.

4. Continued Professional Development (CPD): Engage in continuous learning and upskilling to stay relevant and adaptable in your industry.  

5. Community Support: Join a thriving community of like-minded professionals with over 140,000 members worldwide – fostering support, collaboration, and valuable insights into your field.

Let CMI guide you on your journey towards becoming an exceptional leader, and remember, we are here to support you every step of the way!

Start Now. Build Leadership Skills and Future-Proof Your Career

Study with ITonlinelearning, and choose from seven CMI levels that include qualifications in Team Leading, Management and Leadership and Strategic Management and Leadership


  1. (Source: Gallup, “State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders,” 2015)
  1. (Source: Center for Creative Leadership, “High-Resolution Leadership,” 2017)
  1. (Source: Corporate Leadership Council, “Driving Performance and Retention Through Employee Engagement,” 2004)
  1. (Source: Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, “The Effect of Leadership on Innovation and Organizational Performance,” 2015)
  1. (Source: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “High Impact Leadership: What Organisations Can Do to Develop Leaders,” 2017)
  1. (Source: Journal of Applied Psychology, “Leadership, Conflict, and Performance: The Case of Workplace Disputes,” 2014)
  1. (Source: Weber Shandwick, “The CEO Reputation Premium: Gaining Advantage in the Engagement Era,” 2016)

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