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David Whitmarsh
  November 19, 2023

What Makes a Great Leader? Understanding and Developing Core Leadership Competencies

At the heart of every successful organization are leaders who guide, inspire, and foster growth. But what makes a great leader? It’s a complex blend of skills and competencies, each honed over time and tailored to meet the specific demands of an organization’s hierarchical levels. Let’s delve deeper into the essence of great leadership.

Understanding the Core Leadership Competencies

A robust framework of leadership encapsulates various skill sets and competencies that make for effective leaders. These competencies can be broadly classified into several categories:

Strategic Thinking: This includes the ability to create and communicate a vision, make informed decisions, solve problems, and develop and implement strategies.

Emotional and Interpersonal Skills: A strong leader should possess emotional intelligence, effective communication skills, the ability to listen, and foster teamwork. They must also have negotiation skills, cultural competence, and the ability to motivate others.

Management Skills: This encompasses delegation, change management, talent management, time management, project management, and risk management.

Learning and Adaptability: Leaders should demonstrate resilience, innovation, creativity, and learning agility. They should also be flexible and adaptable to changes.

Business and Financial Acumen: It’s essential for leaders to understand the financial aspects of the business, the broader business context, customer needs, and competitive landscape.

Ethical Conduct: Leaders should demonstrate ethical behavior, leading by example, and fostering a culture of integrity within their teams.

Incorporating these competencies forms the bedrock of successful leadership.

Leadership Progression and Skill Development

However, leadership development is not a universal endeavor. Each level of leadership – from frontline managers to directors, vice presidents, and C-level executives – requires varying degrees of proficiency in these competencies. Leaders must continuously develop these skills as they ascend through the organizational hierarchy, tailoring their approach to meet the demands of their evolving roles.

Closing the Skill Gap: The Path to Great Leadership

Implementing continuous 360-degree feedback is a powerful tool for gauging how leaders fare against these expectations. It provides a holistic understanding of a leader’s strengths and weaknesses as perceived by colleagues, subordinates, and superiors. This approach allows organizations to identify any existing skills gaps, setting the stage for targeted leadership development.

Once gaps are identified, organizations can work with leaders to establish specific goals for improvement. By providing resources such as mentoring, coaching, and training opportunities, organizations can help leaders close these gaps, fostering continuous growth and learning.

Moreover, the process of leadership development should not be static. As organizations evolve, so too do the competencies required of their leaders. Regular re-evaluations and updates to the organization’s leadership skills and competencies ensure leaders stay ahead of the curve, ready to face the challenges of an ever-changing business landscape.

In Conclusion

So, what makes a great leader? It’s more than just a checklist of skills and competencies. It’s about continuous growth, adaptability, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Great leaders are those who understand that leadership is not merely about managing tasks – it’s about inspiring, guiding, and developing others while continually evolving themselves. It’s a journey of unending self-improvement and dedication that truly defines great leadership.

Duane Edwards

Cofounder & Head of Product Development & Customer Engagement, Teamatics
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