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Top 5 Skills Every Director Needs

Master the essential skills to take your organisation to greater heights

Are you starting a new role as a director? Or have you recently been promoted to a senior management role? Whether you’re an aspiring director or settling into your senior management role, you are now tasked with the heavy responsibility of leading your people and growing your company.

Although these new responsibilities may seem daunting, it can be immensely exciting and satisfying when you see that you are helping your people and organisation do well. So, how can you best prepare yourself to take on this challenging and potentially rewarding role?

We spoke to leaders and business owners across different sectors on the top skills that they believe directors need. Here’s their best advice on the essential skills that every director should master.

1. Embody the vision of your organisation

Directors should have the breadth of perspective and depth of experience to form a cohesive vision for their organisations. 

As Paul A. Dillon, CMC of Dillon Consulting Services LLC says, “Every director needs the ability to form a vision and execute it - yes, the “vision thing”. This is critical to the long-term future of any business, and there must be the skills to execute that vision.”

As one of the most senior leaders in your organisation, you’ll need to understand and demonstrate how fundamental your organisation’s vision and mission are to the company’s success. This should be reflected in the actions you take and the decisions you make.

Beryl Krinshy, Founder and CEO of B.Komplete found that “So many of our interns and applicants for the internship told me that my excitement made them even more excited about the program, and believe in our mission. [The director should have demonstrable] passion for our mission and excitement to lead the way!”

2. Communication skills

Strong communication skills are important for all levels of staff who wish to get ahead in their careers.  Many of the business leaders we spoke to agree that effective communication skills are especially critical and is possibly the most important skill that every director needs. 

“As a director, one of your main responsibilities is to oversee multiple projects and staff,” says Jenny Winstead, Program Manager at LA Tutors. “You need to be able to clearly communicate your goals so that everyone is on the same page.”

In addition to the ability to communicate effectively, there is an increasing expectation that a well-regarded director should be able to communicate authentically and with empathy.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls expounds on this need for empathetic communication: “The key skill directors need is communication — the ability to recognise that everyone is struggling right now so it is critical to show our humanity and compassion while we look out for one another. There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness and timeliness. Being authentic, confident, empathetic, providing substance, staying relevant are all the qualities we need in communications right now.”

Communicate with maximum clarity and impact!

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3. Leadership skills

As someone whose role it is to manage teams and even the whole organisation, leadership is an indispensable part of a director’s skills set. The good news is that leadership is a skill that can be learned.

“Running a company requires a strong, stable leader,” says Malte Scholz, CEO and Co-Founder of Airfocus. “A common misconception is that leadership is something people are born with. While some may be better at it naturally, leadership skills are very practical and can be learned over time.

Some key practices of leadership that you can seek to acquire include the art of delegation, people management and coaching - these aspects are frequently bound together.

As Kim Chan, Founder and CEO of puts it, “A director that does not sufficiently delegate and develop staff to perform the needed duties will not gain any trust from staff. This results in micro-management or even doing everything yourself, as a result the company will not be able to grow. The director will also need to be a role model, teacher and guide. The director should have the ability to explain and teach and inspire others to do better.

Keen to inspire and motivate your team?

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4. Decision-making skills

You may find that as the director, you are the final arbiter when it comes to all types of decisions that have to be made in your department or company. So, how do you ensure that you are making the right decisions?

According to Wayne Connors, Managing Director of ACCL, “Directors need to be strategic thinkers. Before making decisions, they calculate risks and understand the impact of their decisions. They continue to seek new information about trends, competitors, and the industry to allow themselves to make data-driven decisions.

Making business decisions is a complicated process, especially in today's highly competitive and fast-paced market. This high-pressured environment, coupled with the fact that there are seldom clear and obvious solutions, means that it is beneficial for directors to continually develop their decision-making and problem-solving skills with relevant training courses.

Learn to make better decisions!

Get the skills to make wise choices, even when you’re working with limited resources.

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5. Organisational and time management skills

Stepping into the role of a director means taking on increased responsibilities and a higher workload. It is therefore important for directors to have impeccable organisational skills. This includes developing strong time management skills and learning when to say no.

Here are some excellent tips from Jenny Bater-Sinclair, Founder, Director and Head Tutor at Hip Hop Pop Ltd :

1) Time blocking skills

As a company director of a SME I wear many hats - I have learnt to utilise the time I have for efficiency. I know I’m most focused in the morning, and I work best in blocks of 1 hour and with a clear mind, so I time block my day to fit. My day is blocked out in hourly slots, starting with high priority deep-focus work in the morning slots. Later in the afternoon I’ll attack the less important tasks, and finish up by organising my task list and time blocks for the next day.

2) Know when to say no

It took me years to realise how important it is to learn to say no, and how time-sucking and productively draining the word ‘yes’ can be. Now I ask myself 2 questions when I get asked to do a task or activity: 

i) Does it align with my or my businesses values? 

ii) Would I be happy to give my or my team’s time for this? 

If no, then no thank you.

For more top tips on knowing how and when to say no, head on over to our article, 3 Ways to Set (and Keep) Professional Boundaries.

Want to learn how to become more productive and lower your stress at work? 

Browse hundreds of time management training courses to help you get the most out of your day!

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Additional reading on the top skills to develop at different stages of your career:

About the author

Carol Pang is a Digital Content Editor for Prior to this, she has 12 years of experience in the corporate and financial sectors. 

She believes that people are fundamental to an organisation’s success, and that effective training can create a motivated and engaged workforce.

carol pang

Last updated: 15 Sep 2021

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