We will not add yet another description of the character traits or thought processes of leaders. Our analysis of massive data collected on leaders’ competencies reveals that all vital leadership competencies can be grouped into five elements, which we compare to the poles in a tent:
- Character: Our model starts with a center pole representing the “character” of an individual. Personal characters is the core of leadership effectiveness. The ethical standards, integrity, and authenticity of the leader are extremely important. With a strong personal character, the leader is never afraid to be open and transparent. In fact, the more people can see inside, the more highly regarded the leader will be. Without that personal character, leaders are forever in danger of being “discovered.”
- Personal capability. The pole of personal capability describes the intellectual, emotional, and skill makeup of the individual. It includes analytical and problem-solving capabilities, along with technical competence. It requires an ability to create a clear vision and sense of purpose. Great leaders need these personal capabilities. Leadership cannot be delegated to others. The leader must be emotionally resilient, trust others, and be self-confident enough to run effective meetings and speak well in public.
- Focus on results. Focusing on results describes the ability to have an impact and get things accomplished. Leaders may be wonderful human beings, but if they don’t produce sustained, balanced results, they simply are not good leaders.
- Interpersonal skills. Leadership is expressed through the communication process and is the impact that the leader has on other people. It is the leader’s ability to obtain good results in other arenas, such as financial outcomes, productivity improvement, or enhanced customer relations.
- Leading change. Another expression of leadership comes in the ability to produce positive change. The highest expression of leadership involves change. Caretaker managers can keep things going, but leaders are demanded if the organization is to pursue a new path or rise to higher performance. For many leadership roles, the first four tent poles may be all that are required. It is not until a person gets into leading strategic change that the final tent pole is required.