Leadership and Management
In What One Competency Area Should Leaders Be Developed or Trained?
Just over a month ago we put up a question on the LinkedIn website as follows:
This was posted on the Australian Human Resources Institute Group page, a group which at the time had over 15,400 members. In around 4 weeks we received 30 responses to the question from different people and we thought we would summarize in this article what was very interesting and thoughtful input.
Before we look at a few of the particular postings, what were the overall results in terms of the “one competency that people would invest in developing the most”?
There were two competencies that vied for the winner:
Technically, the ability to coach others had the most mentions. However, people use slightly different terms for communication skills and if “the ability to influence or persuade others” is included, then communication comes out on top.
At one level down from these two competencies (and mentioned three to four times) are three others:
- “Managing under-performance” (or performance correction as it was also called)
- “People motivation/Empowerment ability”
Mentioned at least twice at the next level were several other competencies including:
- “Creating Vision”
- “Collaboration skills”
- “Developing others”
- “Holding Crucial conversations”
- “Reflection skills”
- “Taking risks”
- “Listening ability”
- “Ethical thinking ability”
- “The ability to deal with cognitive complexity”
There were many other competencies that were mentioned only once, but for completeness they are listed in the table below:
|Advocacy skills||Optimism / happiness||Authenticity|
|Stimulating others intellectually||Service focus / awareness||Change management ability|
|Dealing with ambiguity||Managing by walking around||Strategic ability|
|Managerial courage||Results orientation||Self-awareness|
|Presentation skills||Delegation skills||Empathy ability|
Clearly, many of these competencies overlap with one another and as many people pointed out, some are “foundational” and will lead to the deployment of others if well honed.
Although, all comments can be found at the LinkedIn website, the following fifteen represent a few of the inputs made (both in full and excerpted with apologies to others who made good but similar points):
“Coaching skills, without a doubt. I see too many managers who get promoted and take their work with them because they can’t effectively coach others to take over their old tasks. By developing (and using!) coaching skills they can develop their staff and free their own time to do the management/leadership work they are being paid to do.” – Jason Howden
“In a world (relational economy) where collaboration is relied upon for organisational success, perhaps collaboration as a competency – as stated, this is a competency more broadly in context, as it encompasses the elements (some already mentioned) of communication, connection, trust, empowerment (power with), negotiation (persuasion/influencing- aligning self interests with collective interests), conflict management etc), relating, development of common goals etc. I would go one step further to suggest that collaboration should be developed as a core organisational competency, to develop all of the leaders within the organisation (not just the formal/nominal leaders at the top) – whether at the centre and periphery of the organisation.” – Peter Spence
“We need organisational leaders who step out of their comfort zone; to take personal risks. It’s said that learning only occurs on the edge of comfort. I believe the same is said for all forms of development and growth.” – Stephen Walker
“I think that effective leaders need to have cognitive complexity – the ability to cognitively deal with seemingly paradoxical thoughts or ideas. This will enable them to then deliver behavioural complexity – the ability to deliver seemingly paradoxical behaviours.” – Tricia Vilkinas
“If I was to name the one which I believe is most crucial, it would be managing vision and purpose. The others would be; dealing with ambiguity, innovation management, strategic agility, managerial courage, drive for results, motivating others and developing direct reports and others.” – Katy Jones
“Self-Awareness- having the ability to understand the impact you’re having on others will lead to empathy and understanding of other people’s points of view and inevitably develop great relationships.. ….or what about Resilience? Imagine if the world was populated by resilient leaders that were able to have tough or confrontational conversations without fear of emotional reactions.” – Matt Connell
“Communication skills that include outstanding presentation skills – today’s teams require inspirational leadership to get them over the line.” – Sharon Ferrier
So, what can we take away from this small but well-informed set of comments about leadership competencies? Well if we may be so bold, the ability to think and then communicate seems to lie at the heart of almost all of the competencies mentioned (although a few like critical thinking and emotional intelligence and others that are often written about as important in the leadership skills mix were absent from this list altogether). However, we think as a quick poll (of what an informed group of people think matters in the leadership realm), the whole list is a useful start to the debate to be had in every single organization. In the final analysis, as several people commented, context will always be critical.