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Leadership Competence

Ask any knowledgeable person what is needed in a leader, and competence will be one of the first things that comes up. But what does that mean? It seems to lead, you must be an expert, star performer, a wise decision maker. Followers want to be led by someone they have confidence in that can perform and deliver results.Of course, no one is accomplished at everything. The most significant thing for a leader to do is to gain clarity on what areas you have a demonstrated competency with the experiences and results to support it. Being a jack of all trades and master of none will never cut it. Gallup Management researched many, many leaders and showed that those who strive to be competent in all leadership attributes become the least effective leaders overall.Leaders at the head of an organization will serve the organization well to develop a leadership competency model. A competency is a skill, ability, or knowledge set that can be taught or developed. All competencies have “indicators” that allow them to be observed and measured. A leadership competency model is a group of competencies linked to leadership excellence in a specific organization. A leadership competency model supports the organization’s vision and strategy by providing a framework by which the organization can select, develop, and evaluate leaders. Ultimately, a competency model should become a way of talking about leadership in your organization.The website EFFECTIVOLOGY points out that there are several levels of competence that exist in the process of developing:

  • Unconscious incompetence- in the beginning, you don’t know what you don’t know. You’re not entirely aware of what the new skill entails or what your goals should be. You make mistakes without realizing that you’re making them.

  • Conscious incompetence- at this stage, you know you’re still making a lot of mistakes, but you’re now at least aware that you’re making them. You still don’t know a lot, but you can recognize what you need to learn in order to improve.

  • Conscious competence- if you’re at this level, it means that you’re relatively proficient in the skill, so that you have a good understanding of it, and you make only a small number of mistakes. However, performing at a high level still requires a significant effort on your part.

  • Unconscious competence- at this point, you are so well-practiced in the skill that you can perform at a high level with relatively little effort. For you, the necessary actions are now mostly instinctual and automatic.

The main take-away is that feeling like you have no idea when you begin is perfectly fine and normal, as long as you are committed to continual improvement.So where should you focus as a leader? Sunnie Giles, an organizational scientist, executive coach, and leadership development consultant, researched 195 leaders in 15 countries over 30 global organizations. Participants were asked to choose the 15 most important leadership competencies from a list of 74. The top answers were grouped into five major themes that suggest a set of priorities for leaders and leadership development programs. While some may not surprise you, they’re all difficult to master, in part because improving them requires acting against our nature:

  • Strong ethics and safety—creating a safe and rusting environment, behaving consistently with the values. Making sure people feel safe on a deep level is job #1 for leaders.

  • Self-organizing—providing clear direction while allowing employees or team members to organize their own time to accomplish the job is vital. Empowered teams are more productive and satisfied, and tension is decreased.

  • Efficient learning—When a leader doesn’t encourage learner, he stifles it. The leader has to show openness to new ideas and foster organizational learning. Allow and promote risk-taking. Promote collective intelligence.

  • Nurtures growth—Gratitude and loyalty results when growth is nurtured. Think about the people who inspire your deepest gratitude. Chances are, they nurtured your growth. Helping your people grow into next-gen leaders is vital.

  • Connection and belonging—This requires communicating openly and honestly and often. The leader has frequent meetings that ensures they “come together as a pack”. The leader must be on top of the passive-aggressive and overtly aggressive interchanges of some team members. Other team members feel emotionally depleted just observing the unpleasantness. The leader is always in charge of setting the tone, and must be skilled at moderating.

These are the skills that the leader at the head of an organization or team wants to grow in himself/herself, and then pass on to those who lead teams within the organization. Creating the competency model is a significant step in moving everyone towards the goal of great leadership.Follow these steps in getting that piece into place in your organization.1) Create lists of behaviors to determine what good leadership looks like in your organization. You might interview team members, conduct strategic planning sessions, or select behaviors from competencies known to be important.2) Use these guidelines to group common behaviors and name them. These will be your leadership competencies. Be as specific as possible.They should also be a noun (e.g., delegation) or a gerund (e.g., listening). Names should be easily understood, so avoid jargon and ambiguous words with more than one meaning. Use adjectives to clarify ambiguous nouns (e.g., disciplined management).3) Define the competencies. Competency definitions should be unambiguous and specific. Use complete sentences when writing definitions, and avoid abbreviations. Also,a competency should be observable. Your competency definition should specify the “what” and the “why.” For example, a definition of active listening should include the what: “Communicating and clarifying understanding, and eliciting information using both active and passive behaviors,” and the why: ”In order to engage others, make people feel heard, and gather information.” Using these parts, active listening would then be defined as “Communicating and clarifying understanding, and eliciting information using both active and passive behaviors, in order to engage others, make people feel heard, and gather information.”Once you have created a competency model for your organization, the next step is to think about systems you can put in place to ensure organizational leaders are supporting the organization’s mission, vision, and strategy through effective use of these competencies.

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