Top Skills for Leading Well


Whether as individuals we serve on a team of volunteers, or whether there are opportunities to guide others by vocation – we see experiences underlie choices and decisions. Time and dedication can build up a leader’s character. In taking time to ask questions of respected leaders, the motivation behind their efforts will often bubble up to the surface. Yet, often discovering the cause of good leadership is not pursued, as it may take time away from tasks on the horizon or seem like an odd conversation to have, but it is in these places where the nuggets of life may be mined.

Troy Griess works for Syngenta Crop Protection as the District Manager in South Dakota. This role has been pivotal in developing his leadership skills and identifying growth areas and searching out his best practices. With individual sales members being measured as a team, everyone knows their part affects the success of the business as a whole. Griess believes when people have confidence in their abilities to succeed, they maintain an “I’ll find a way to get it done” mentality. Yet, this attention to measuring results is also closely tied to being relational with customers and co-workers, knowing how lives are impacted by what’s happening personally. In staying in contact with people on a relational basis, this will help motivate one another with paying attention to what is developing where.


These findings are a sample of what characteristics can be attributed to top leadership skills.  In exploring high accountability, often perceived as receiving and giving correction or challenge, this is one of the most valued skills, although it may feel difficult to articulate. 

1)     Breaking Down High Accountability

Griess remembers the years when he began his career and felt a drive for results. He attributes the example of a mentor showing him how the time invested in people really made for well-rounded experiences as an employee and would ultimately bring about increased success.  In the last ten years, Griess has been asked to help lead or lead projects at work, church and for others, which has shown him accountability in action.

Griess says, “People need high accountability, otherwise it becomes an environment that fosters a toxic culture.” He sees how empathy is important to meet others where they are at, and take an interest in the goals and progress that exists. Yet, on the other side is where courage lies, where a shared agreement on what is possible, and what people desire to be is viewed as attainable and measurable.

Earl Kemp discussed this theme of transparent communication with advice to share positive work efforts with others in public, offering additional validation if it comes from the team.  These words of praise come with a specific message and as immediately following the contribution as possible.  With feedback, there is the importance in valuing the person and having a sense of the learning that needs to take place. Giving suggestions, especially something that could be negative, is a private conversation and includes a discussion of what could be happening to see improvement.

Sue Hanneld serves the community in various capacities, and at First Presbyterian her role is fulfilled weekly. She finds as others approach her with tasks they need help with, there’s an existing culture of respect for valuing and thanking her for her contributions. This often happens within organizations, but if it is lacking, morale may suffer. This leads to the second idea for furthering leadership skills.

2)    Make Education a Part of the Routine

Within Earl Kemp’s missions experiences, he has taken on the educational role of teaching students how to pack mortar into bricks without any gaps to cause problems later. Initially, it is his responsibility, his eyes, to catch the mistakes, but after a few attempts, the students are able to identify if they have done it correctly or not.

Ann Henkin shares that authenticity is important in educational settings, where the individuals can understand the educator’s purpose in raising them up and equipping them, whatever the goals may be. At times, there may be underlying struggles, but empathy is important as much as equipping is possible. Take a student who is coming late to school, this may be addressed with empathy, saying, “I’m sorry your parents aren’t helping you to get to school,” as well as equipping, “But make sure you use your alarm clock. I know you can do it!”


Anja Hoekman discussed the tendency people may have to isolate something they’ve done wrong and focus on it. She called it “tunnel vision” with something negative, and offered the advice to sandwich correction within four or five praises. This also helps others feel their positive contributions are recognized by their leader and have confidence to be trainable and correct what needs to be improved. This educational outlook is one that recognizes value in others and helps leaders focus on the future.  This leads to the final idea for developing top leadership skills.

3)     Cast Vision for the Future

A popular script or plot to a movie is a “rags to riches” theme or even a true story of someone who came from significant lack to finding confidence and success in a given area. Connie Tucker feels it is encouraging for people who did not grow up with a high level of support, to mature and allow themselves to be developed. Finding they are teachable and become leaders themselves.

Ann Henkin summarized looking ahead with vision in a few phrases, “We can change. We don’t have to parent the way we were parented.  We need to learn new skills.”  Subtract the word “parent” and replace it with whatever challenge is appropriate.  It may be a situation where instead of looking at what has been, the vision shifts to what could be.

As people who advocate leadership, we also look to see this happening at church. 


Jennifer Noble graduated with a Corporate Communications major and has written locally for “Etc. for Her” as well as Sioux Falls charities such as the Ronald McDonald House. In addition, two of her stories are published in compilations, “I’m Glad I’m a Mom” (Harvest House) and “God Still Meets Needs” (CreateSpace). She is the Communications Manager at First Presbyterian Church

Troy Griess finds experiences at First Presbyterian Church increased his vision to live into the lives of people within the community of Sioux Falls. Griess appreciates having the opportunities to help others and sees the benefits in the movement of consuming to giving.  He counts it a privilege to share his faith in God and feels discussions one-on-one is the best way to approach others, and never feeling pushy or forceful when it comes to his Christian testimony.  He is personally inspired more and more as he shares of himself personally. And this is the backbone of why we need an inspirational leader – we follow because we want to – not because we “have to.”

Want more:  Check out First Presbyterian Church’s article on loneliness.