What Are Leadership Competencies?

The definition of leadership competencies is leadership behaviors and skills that can contribute to superior performance. By focusing on a competency based leadership, companies and organizations will be able to better identify their next generation of leaders.  

Leadership competencies measured by Leading the Function 360 include:

  • Executive level communication – A leader should be able to use language that can create a common understanding.
  • Execution and results – They should utilize the resources properly to accomplish the necessary objectives, and assign accountability for those goals.
  • Provide influence – A leader can influence, inspire, and motivate others around them to participate and take action.
  • Has a strategic perspective – They should be able to balance tension that occurs between strategic actions and daily tasks that will have a long-term impact on their company or organization.
  • Can bridge boundaries – Boundaries should not be an issue for leaders, and they should be able to bridge these gaps to build strong working relationships.
  • Engages others effectively – They should be able to motivate others to want to achieve their personal best.
  • Fully understands the organization – Knowledge of the needs, functions, and goals of the entire organization is necessary to be able to lead.
  • Has vision – A leader should clearly understand the company or organizations vision, and be able to communicate and implement it.
  • Be innovative – They should be able to use their knowledge, skills, and perspectives to be able to promote innovation that can benefit the company and produce reliable outcomes.
  • Have a professional presence and be approachable – Not only should they be easily identifiable as executive material in both appearance, communication, and mannerisms, they should also be approachable by those they work with.
  • Be self-aware – They must have an accurate picture of their strengths and weaknesses, and know the value they can bring. 
  • Be able to learn – They should have learning agility and be able to quickly gain additional knowledge from their experience and the opportunities that they are exposed to.
  • Exhibit global leadership – A leader will know how to conduct business and lead others throughout the world.

To be considered successful, it is believed that all the above attributes must be present as they are interconnected and reliant upon each other. While many companies will often stick with strategies that have worked in the past, adapting to situations as they arise is becoming a necessity to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Dr. Ronald E. Riggo also addressed the topic of leadership competencies and arrived at his own list based on his research, as well as research from other sources. The top 10 leadership competencies according to Riggo include:

  1. Intelligence and emotional skills – A complement to social intelligence, emotional intelligence allows an individual to be able to understand emotions, be in tune with their own emotions, and communicate with others at a more emotional level. Intelligence and emotional skills are often what is being discussed when referring to charisma.
  2. Social intelligence – This poorly understood skill is often a high predictor of business leadership as it shows their ability to interact in a variety of social situations. To achieve this, one must expose themselves to a variety of social situations and different people to be able to develop varying social perspectives.
  3. Interpersonal skill – Similar to social intelligence, interpersonal skills show a high ability to interact with a variety of types of people. To have good interpersonal skills, one must have proper listening skills, speak well, excel at conversations, and have good personal relationships with those close to them.
  4. Decision-making ability – One of the most important parts of being a good leader is being able to make sound decisions that can benefit the organization and lead to the best outcomes. It is not only about learning how to make decisions on one's own, but also about when to consult outside parties to ensure proper decision making. A good leader is not one that has made no mistakes, but when they have made mistakes, they learn from them and find ways to prevent themselves from making the same mistake twice.
  5. Prudence – One of the cardinal values listed by Aristotle, prudence is often used as a synonym to wisdom, but actually is used to define the ability to view an issue or problem from another person's point of view. This is necessary to be able to help choose the best course of action when faced with a problem.
  6. Political savviness – To be successful, a leader needs to know how the political game is played, and be able to be a player. They also should know how to manage political issues and behavior in an organization to prevent internal strife or dysfunction in the company or organization. To be politically knowledgeable, it is necessary to learn about people and social dynamics. Most political knowledge is gained through experience.
  7. Courage – What Aristotle often referred to as fortitude, courage is necessary for a leader to be able to take risks, stand up for what they believe in, and be able to stand for their values and principles to do the right thing.
  8. Ability to manage conflict – Conflict management is a higher level of interpersonal skills that allow you to help others solve or prevent interpersonal conflicts. While leaders are often called upon to resolve conflicts among others, it is also important for them to be able to prevent or resolve their own interpersonal conflicts. Conflict management strategies can be learned through training exercises and classes. Conflict resolution is most often to achieve a win-win outcome, but is also about achieving flexibility and compromise.
  9. Ability to be influential – In essence, leadership is all about influencing others so that you can lead them to achieve common goals. A successful leader will have mastered social influence and learned how to utilize the power of that influence fairly and effectively.
  10. Competence and areas of expertise – In order to be a truly established leader in your field, it is important that you have expertise in your particular field as well as displayed competence. To achieve this, a leader must continue to develop an expertise, and continue to gain knowledge through training, learning more about the product or service the organization supplies, and gaining knowledge from other team members. Also, it is necessary to continue education, as well as study competitors, to ensure that their knowledge and expertise will continue to grow as business changes.

To help set the stage to develop and create future organization leaders, it is important for a company to look at business strategy along with future business trends when determining the leadership competencies that the company will look for.

Setting the standards for leadership competency, and having a clear skill set determined to build employees into the future leaders of a company, the company will maintain a competitive advantage among other companies in their direct market.

What Are Essential Leadership Competencies?

By focusing on skill development and leadership competencies, a company will be able to promote better leadership in their employees, and also be able to build future leaders from their current workforce.

While the skills listed above are critical to establishing a solid leader, different needs in an organization may call for requiring a different or additional skill set to meet the needs and business strategy of the organization.

Research done by the Center for Creative Leadership have found skills that are considered essential leadership skills that have led to success among a consistent amount of organizations. The research breaks down leadership competencies in three primary categories: leading the organization, leading others in the organization, and leading the self.

Leading the Organization

The term leading the organization refers to the ability to solve problems, make decisions, manage changes, influence others, manage politics, innovate, take risks, set the vision and strategies, manage the work and goals, and understand the navigation of the business.

Leading Others in the Organization

When leading others, one needs to be able to communicate effectively, value the diversity and difference that can be brought to the table by others, build and maintain interpersonal relationships, develop others, and effectively manage groups and teams.

Leading Oneself

When mastering the art of being able to lead oneself, a good leader will be able to show demonstrated ethics and integrity while performing their job, know how to manage themselves, be able to increase self-awareness, develop adaptability, exhibit and maintain a leadership stature, and display drive and purpose.

By looking at the essential leadership competencies listed above, human resource departments can make better decisions when choosing those individuals who will possess the ability to develop into possible leadership roles in the organization. 

How Current Business Trends and Strategy Are Driving New Leadership Competencies?

A report issued by SHRM in 2008 titled "Changing Leadership Strategies," states that increased competition due to the knowledge of globalization and the economy will bring about significant changes to the leadership strategies in companies and organizations.

With an analysis of future business trends, it is agreed that leadership competencies that are most important to the future of businesses and organizations include:

  • Developing teams
  • Being an effective collaborator
  • Efficacy at network building
  • Being effective at change management
  • Developing teams and talent

It is important to create these competency models to reflect the future business strategies and goals that are of value to shareholders, customers, and investors to be able to create a successful leadership brand. Research has determined that when investors have the confidence in the leadership in an organization, the price per share of the company will be affected positively. This creation of a leadership brand through the implementation of leadership competencies will not only show a benefit to the company through increased price share, but also will give them an advantage in the marketplace against their competition.

Leadership Skills Strataplex: What Are the Leadership Skill Requirements Across Company Levels?

The various leadership skills are broadly divided into four primary categories: interpersonal, cognitive, strategic, and business. How these four varying skill categories are based on the levels of organization in a company is referred to as the "strataplex" model.

The higher the level of management in an organization, the greater the number of leadership skills required. Out of these four leadership skills, cognitive ability was listed as being the most important. It is cognitive skills that is thought to be the foundation of leadership as it involves acquiring new knowledge and information to apply to problem-solving procedures that can benefit the organization.

When it came to advancement and promotion up the leadership ladder, the two most critical skills were business and strategic skills.  Both strategic skills and business acumen are necessary to be effective at higher level management jobs, therefore mastering these skills can lead to more vertical advancement.

The Managers' Perceptions of Justice in High Potential Identification Practices

Since leadership is an important part of an organization's future, identifying individuals with high potential for leadership is considered essential for producing future leaders for an organization. Using leadership competencies is an important part of determining those individuals who have the higher potential to become influential leaders in the organization.

When identifying high potential employees, the most common leadership competencies that employers look for include:

  • Communication skills
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to make decisions
  • Strategic skills

Utilizing the leadership competency approach in evaluating and determining high potential employees helps promote a feeling of fairness among other employees as those being sought out will be determined based on specific factors that are known to employees who may wish to be considered for advancement as well. This can lead to higher perceived fairness in the organization in terms of advancement.

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