Company leaders need to carefully determine the key leadership competencies that define the business they own and manage.  These key core competencies should become the means by which the organization achieves its goals or carries out its mission.

It is not enough however, to just create a list of broad and generic competencies. Instead, leadership competencies need to be simple, practical, and realistic. They also need to be sufficiently broad and responsive to embrace a full range of ever-increasing and ever-changing skills – from the newly hired to perform a simple task, through consistent outcomes, to finally full expertise.

It also does not make sense to try to develop a competency model when everyone has a different picture of what effective or successful performance means for the organization. Creating a competency list therefore must begin with an agreed upon definition of competency by management, managers, and employees. Here’s an example of one that managers might use or modify.

A competency is simply a ‘blend’ of knowledge, skills, experience, behaviors, and values.  When put in action, an individual with the right “blend” performs his responsibilities in a way that gets results.

Accepting the definition of competency and identifying a core list is only the first step. The most challenging and most often ignored task is identifying how to measure competence.

For example, nearly every competency list I’ve seen lists teamwork, integrity, and leadership style. Maybe the titles change, but the context is always the same.  So let’s take leadership style  What criteria do you put in place so that everyone is “graded” fairly and consistently? After you decide that leadeship style is important enough to be a core competency, how much leadership does a manager need to show to be considered good vs great?  What are the observable and/or measurable characteristics of a manager who gives 100% but forces change vs the one who merely engages employees and doesn’t create waves? Who is the better leader? Discussions about things like this are generally avoided which only leads to unfulfilled outcomes. Without clear descriptions of observable or measurable outcomes, it’s impossible for managers to know what it takes to become better leaders.

A competency also does not get build overnight. It takes many years of work experience, training and general practical application until it finally become intuitive. And as the marketplace, technology, and work environment changes, the need to evolve and improve the competency is necessary.

To focus on results without identifying the competencies that achieve those results is to leave yourself as a manager and your employees in the dark when it comes to developing better performance. By identifying and defining core competencies, development, training, and employee appraisals can be focused on what drives and aligns corporate and individual performance.