Leadership Distinction #36: Competence

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Leaders, forget about trying to be ‘great’. Competence will see you through.

Leadership Distinction #36: Competence

If there’s a phrase I would eradicate from common usage it is the one that so many media messages implore you to be, or offer to help you become, and that is a – great leader. As if the uncommon occurrence of actual leading isn’t already great enough.

Greatness is not a useful gauge for those of us who train, teach, and coach leaders. It sets the bar too high. There is no common definition for it, as the meaning is as varied as the people who think about it. Moreover, its connotation is loaded with value judgments and moralisms. And don’t we already have enough of that today.

I have a replacement suggestion: what word is used as frequently as greatness, but like greatness, is also not nearly as commonly experienced as the word is commonly heard, and, is down-to-earth enough for us to work with to develop persons — persons that others may indeed choose to follow? Competence. 

Competence may vary widely in an individual’s domain of practice but all would recognize its meaning as a person’s capacity to deal with situations – applying their readiness and executing their ability to do the thing they want to do, in order to achieve desired ends. 

Competence may not dazzle like greatness. But if we look past the word’s coveralls and hardhat we uncover from its oldest, Latin roots a meaning that adds a touch of epic drama to the daily grind — a meeting of rivals. Your rival is the difficult situation you and your followers find yourselves in. And it is your Competence that you will draw upon in meeting the challenge. The outcome could be great.

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