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What is a Leadership Competency Model?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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A leadership competency model is a plan created by a company to focus and develop employee leadership skills. “Competencies” may refer to any skill, motivation, or behavior that may be valuable or necessary to complete job-related goals. A leadership competency model may be developed in-house, with employees and management working together to define targeted skills and goals related to leadership. Companies may sometimes also hire an outside leadership skills professional to help create and implement a leadership competency model.

The most common way to create a leadership competency model is by creating a visual representation, such as a graph, pyramid, or pie chart, that defines leadership skills in order of priority. Other factors that may be included in the model may be the interaction of leadership skills with each type of job or responsibility level; for instance, while self-motivation may be important for every employee, specialized skills like negotiating or political acumen may only be necessary for jobs with higher responsibility levels.

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The creation of a leadership competency model may take weeks or even months of preparation, and may require periodic revisions to keep in line with company or organizational goals. Some companies appoint a task force of workers to develop the model, comprised of employees from all different levels of the company. Though time consuming, this approach allows the creation of a customized model unique to the needs and goals of a specific company. Others may purchase a ready-made competency model and leadership training materials from an outside source, then customize it to suit specific needs.

Developing a leadership competency model will mostly involve determining what leadership qualities best coincide with the goals of the company. Desired competencies may be broken down into categories, such as mindset, teamwork, and vision. This process usually requires the task force or outside company to do a careful assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of an organization, and to develop strategies and plans that will help maximize the strengths and improve weaker areas. If, for instance, a company wants to improve teamwork by increasing trust between workers, one competency might be “trust-building through social activities.”

When built efficiently, a leadership competency model can help workers determine the most important areas for improvement and development. Moreover, a visible and present model can serve as a constant reminder of the goals and mission of the organization. In order for a competency model to be effective and useful, the company must be able to commit to a plan of continuous improvement based on the model. Without a concerted effort by management to keep the model both current and vital in daily working life, it may become nothing more than a pretty chart on the wall.

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