Leadership Competencies: Are we all saying the same thing?
Jeffrey D. Horey Caliber Associates 49 Yawl Dr. Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 email@example.com Jon J. Fallesen, Ph.D. Army Research Institute Ft. Leavenworth, KS firstname.lastname@example.org
In the course of developing an Army leadership competency framework focused on the Future Force (up to year 2025), the authors examined several existing U.S. military and civilian leadership competency frameworks. We attempt to link the core constructs across the frameworks and identify similarities and differences in terms of their content and structures. We conclude that leadership competency modeling is an inexact science and that many frameworks present competencies that mix functions and characteristics, have structural inconsistencies, and may be confusing to potential end users. Recommendations are provided to improve the methods and outcomes of leadership modeling for the future. Table 1 represents many of the traits and characteristics commonly found in leadership competency frameworks. At first glance it may appear to be a comprehensive framework for leaders. It includes values (principled, integrity), cognitive skills (inquiring, thinking), interpersonal skills (caring, enthusiastic, communicating), diversity components (tolerance, respect, empathetic), and change orientation (open-minded, risk taking). Table 1 Sample Leadership Competencies Inquiring Caring Confident Enthusiastic Thinking Open-Minded Cooperative Independent Communicating Well Balanced Creative Integrity Risk Taking Reflective Curious Respect Principled Committed Empathetic Tolerance
Surprisingly, this is not an established leadership framework but rather a list taken from a 4th grade student profile guide. While a simplistic example, it illustrates both the universality of the competency concept and the potential confusion when associating a simple list of traits and processes with leadership.
WHAT IS LEADERSHIP? This, of course, is the $64,000 question (maybe it’s now the Who Wants to be a Millionaire question?). As the Armed Forces face a rapidly evolving and complex future threat environment, it is crucial that leadership in these organizations be well defined, described and inculcated. Part of this challenge includes establishing a common language for discussing leadership concepts and ensuring consistent assessment, development, reinforcement, and feedback processes are in place for maintaining leadership across our forces. So, again, what is leadership? Apparently, decades of research, dozens of theories, and countless dollars haven’t completely answered this question. If it had, then we wouldn’t have vastly different visions of leadership and leadership competency across similar organizations. Or would we? An acceptable definition of leadership might be ‘influencing, motivating, and inspiring others through direct and indirect means to accomplish organizational objectives.’ Defining leadership is an important first step toward establishing how it should be conducted within an organization. However, a simple definition is insufficient for describing the nature, boundaries, contexts, and desirable manifestations of leadership. Enter the evolution of competencies. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF COMPETENCIES? Behavioral scientists and organizational development professionals seek to improve individual and group work processes through the application of systematic procedures and research-based principles. Job analysis techniques, and to a lesser extent competency modeling, have long been used to establish the requirements of jobs and positions throughout organizations and provided input to selection, training, and management practices. Knowledges, skills, abilities, other characteristics (KSAOs), tasks and functions, and more recently competencies have become the building blocks of leadership selection and development processes. Competencies have become a more prevalent method of identifying the...
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