Leadership competency models are now used widely by many organizations to define the skills and behaviors of effective leaders. They’re often used for “talent management” such as coaching and development, performance management, succession planning, identifying and developing high potentials/emerging leaders, and the like.
Many competency models are multi-layered with differing competencies for supervisors, managers, and executives. But how useful are these layers of complexity? Zenger Folkman reviewed input from 332,860 managers, peers, and subordinates to see which competencies would have the greatest impact on a leader’s success. Each respondent was asked to rate the most important 4 out of 16 competencies for over 30,000 supervisors, managers, and executives.
This analysis showed:
• The importance of a competency depends on the job, the situation, and individual needs. These may or may not correspond to what level in the organization the leader is at.
• The most important competencies for supervisors, middle managers, senior managers, and top management were remarkably consistent. These same seven competencies were rated as the most important at all organizational levels:
o Inspires and Motivates Others
o Displays High Honesty and Integrity
o Solves Problems and Analyzes Issues
o Drives for Results
o Communicates Powerfully and Prolifically
o Collaboration and Teamwork
o Builds Relationships
• All levels showed the need for a balance of management skills like driving for results or analytical/problem solving and leadership skills like interpersonal, integrity, communication, and teamwork.
• There is a slight change of order and emphasis between management levels. For example, Developing Strategic Perspective and Communicating Powerfully and Prolifically raises up the importance list of competencies as a leader moves up the organization.
The study showed that competencies are best tailored to each leader’s role. Click on “Are Different Skills Required for Senior Executives?” to read more about this research.
Competency models often use a one-size-fits-all approach for each organizational level. Besides focusing on fixing weaknesses, that broad brush approach creates a number of problems as outlined in our white paper Leadership Competency Models: Why Many Are Failing and How to Make them Flourish. Let’s build “talent management” approaches around each individual’s unique and personal talents.