Leadership Competency Model

Leadership competency models provide an efficient and adequate language to organizations to describe acts of leadership. They provide criteria to assess and develop their managers aligned with the business.

Business Imperative

Lists of leadership qualities are often long and confusing – people hold different notions of what effective leaders do. And businesses need to use this term, as it can be such a game-changer. Businesses therefore require a reasonably diverse language -to describe effective leader actions. Not too diverse and long, and not too constricted either. More over, the language needs to highlight qualities relevant for the business and the aspirational cultural elements. Leadership competency models provide just such a language to business.

Typical Intervention Process

Leaders fundamentally make two contributions to organizations:


  • Setting Direction - Leaders decide the mission of the organization, align the organization to the mission, and work to build commitment of the organization to it.
  • Setting Organizational Culture - Leaders shape the values held by the organization.

We work to develop leadership competency models that cover these two basic ‘tasks’ in a manner that aligns the model to the business.


At a particular client, where the founders were still at the helm, the process started with the gathering of narrations of critical incidents by founders and by key leaders of the business. This helped to establish thematic cultural elements of the organization. An assessment of prevailing environmental factors was then done to identify sources of competitive advantage that have sustained business in the past and those that will be needed to sustain business in the future. Comparing the latter with the existing cultural elements led to articulating the desired cultural ‘pillars’ of the future. These ‘pillars’, along with the basic leadership ‘tasks’, provided the raw material from which, through a creative process, the leadership competency model emerged. This creative process folded in our experience working with many competency models over time.

Outcome

We seek to identify a short set (less than 8, typically) of such competencies necessary and sufficient to describe effective leadership in the context of the organization. We also provide relevant indicators for the five or so levels of responsibility typical, so that individual managers can relate with the competencies and include them into their everyday language, rather than recall them only during appraisals.


More importantly, by involving senior leadership in evolving the model, we hope that the model gets owned and used by them. If they use it, we hope the organization eventually will use it too.

Concept

Till the late 1960’s the approach to deciphering the functioning of leaders in order to replicate their success seems to have been dominated by psychological and psychoanalytical descriptions of personality traits and other aspects observed in successful leaders. But the linkages between personality traits (and the prevalent ways to measure them) and leadership performance proved too tenuous to be trustworthy. The competency model approach, first proposed by Dr. David McClelland, linking specific competencies to success in specific jobs, filled the resultant void. Competencies, as distinguishing behavioral patterns of superior performers, by their very nature, provided a clear, context-specific method of articulation as well as development.


However, this intuitive approach ran into the thicket of complexity in large corporations, with typically fifty-plus unique jobs. This led to the innovation of Leadership Competency Models which segregated competencies into functional and behavioral, helped along by the influential 1977 HBR article of Abraham Zaleznik (‘Managers and Leaders: Are they different?’) calling attention to the differences between managers and leaders.


Today, the dominant view in industry is that functional competences are threshold requirements for continuing in a job, while behavioral competencies are differentiating. With this a priori assumption, most organizations prefer to have a single behavioral competency framework, often called its Leadership Competency Model, that is considered to be applicable to all managerial positions (well, almost, at least – should the Marketing Head be innovative? And the Controller? We have seen people working themselves into knots on some of these issues.).


We see things a bit differently: we believe that what is seen as threshold in one organization is seen as high achievement in another, and hence we believe in working on functional capability building in organizations, and we see it as a core part of managerial development.

Case Studies

At a particular client, where the last of the founders was at the helm, the process started with the gathering of narrations of critical incidents by founders and by key leaders of the business. This helped to establish thematic cultural elements of the organization. An assessment of prevailing environmental factors was then done to identify sources of competitive advantage that have sustained business in the past and those that will be needed to sustain business in the future. Comparing the latter with the existing cultural elements led to articulating the desired cultural ‘pillars’ of the future. These ‘pillars’, along with the basic leadership ‘tasks’, provided the raw material from which, through a creative process, the leadership competency model emerged. This creative process folded in our experience working with many competency models over time.

Thought Leadership

On Minimum Government, Maximum Governance
Mr. Murthy’s shopping list of leadership qualities for the Infosys CEO-to-be
What should the Head Office of a conglomerate busy itself with?

Newsletter Subscription

Contact

Email: listeningpost@greentreelearning.com