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The Most Important Leadership Competencies

The Most Important Leadership Competencies

How to Benchmark Your Leadership Skills

How do you rate when it comes to leadership?

Day in and day out, you’re being evaluated as a leader. What results do you get? How do you handle tough challenges? Do you have the right skills to be an effective leader?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear picture of your strengths, weaknesses, and areas to improve? Wouldn’t it help to know what leadership competencies matter most — and what you could learn to improve your future prospects?

Well, you can — with 360-degree feedback assessments. These leadership tools give you in-depth feedback from a range of people who know your work — superiors, peers, direct reports, clients, suppliers — to give you a clearer picture of yourself.

By asking people all around you to offer feedback, you gain a 360-degree view of your strengths and weaknesses, giving you a benchmark for where you are now in the key leadership competencies and a starting point for improving your effectiveness in the future.

The Key Leadership Competencies Needed to Succeed

For decades, we’ve studied the on-the-job experiences that teach critical lessons of leadership. We’ve researched how successful managers learn, grow, and change through experiences in their careers. The critical lessons that successful managers learned from their experiences are represented in key leadership competencies that can be measured using tools like our widely-recognized Benchmarks® for Managers™ assessment, part of our suite of Benchmarks® 360 assessments.

In addition to providing feedback to help identify strengths and development needs, our Benchmarks assessments do what their name suggests by providing you with a benchmark of how you’re doing when compared to a meaningful norm group. Our Benchmarks assessments are a statistically reliable, valid, and comprehensive 360-degree feedback instrument for evaluating leadership competencies. You can be confident in knowing your current level of leadership competencies and get the information you need to make actionable decisions to grow even more.

In Benchmarks for Managers, the 16 key leadership competencies that are critical for success and the 5 potential problems that may stall or derail an otherwise promising career are:

Leadership Competencies for Leading the Organization

  1. Strategic Perspective: Understands the viewpoint of higher management and effectively analyzes complex problems
  2. Being a Quick Study: Quickly masters new technical and business knowledge
  3. Decisiveness: Prefers quick and approximate actions in many management situations
  4. Change Management: Uses effective strategies to facilitate organizational change initiatives and overcome resistance to change

Leadership Competencies for Leading Others

  1. Leading Employees: Attracts, motivates, and develops employees
  2. Confronting Problem Employees: Acts decisively and with fairness when dealing with problem employees
  3. Participative Management: Involves others, listens, and builds commitment
  4. Building Collaborative Relationships: Builds productive working relationships with coworkers and external parties
  5. Compassion and Sensitivity: Shows genuine interest in others and sensitivity to employees’ needs
  6. Putting People at Ease: Displays warmth and a good sense of humor
  7. Respect for Differences: Values people of different backgrounds, cultures, or demographics

Leadership Competencies for Leading Yourself

  1. Taking Initiative: Takes charge and capitalizes on opportunities
  2. Composure: Demonstrates self-control in difficult situations
  3. Work-Life Balance: Balances work priorities with personal life
  4. Self-Awareness: Has an accurate picture of strengths and weaknesses and is willing to improve
  5. Career Management: Uses effective career management tactics, including mentoring, professional relationships, and feedback channels

Problems That Can Stall a Career

  1. Problems With Interpersonal Relationships: Difficulties in developing good working relationships with others
  2. Difficulty Building and Leading Teams: Difficulties in selecting and motivating a team
  3. Difficulty Changing or Adapting: Resistant to change, learning from mistakes, and developing
  4. Failure to Meet Business Objectives: Difficulties in following up on promises and completing a job
  5. Too Narrow a Functional Orientation: Lacks depth to manage outside of current function

Learn more about the 5 potential career derailers and how to avoid them.

Assess Your Leadership Competencies, Then Create Your Developmental Goals

Just as important as assessing your current skill level is setting goals. We’ve found that leaders who have received 360-degree feedback on their leadership competencies have a clear sense of direction and are ready to take action, but you may need some help understanding what your 360 results really mean.

If your HR or training department is using a 360 feedback tool such as our Benchmarks® suite of 360 assessments in conjunction with coaching sessions, workshops, or leadership development programs, you’ll be able to measure where you stand on these most critical leadership competencies — and get tips on how to take charge of your own development.

But if 360 feedback isn’t in your future anytime soon, you still have many options to develop these leadership competencies, steer development for yourself, and support others to do the same. You can seek out informal feedback, set achievable goals, and find ways to get the learning experiences you need.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Learn more about Benchmarks®, our suite of 360 feedback assessments, to measure critical leadership competencies for yourself or your team as the starting point for any development initiative.


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December 16, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff to help you and your organization's leaders at every level. Want more content like this? Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-backed articles, webinars, insights, and news about leadership development solutions sent straight to your inbox.

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