Preview of “Competence & Leadership”
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Preview of “Competence & Leadership”
THE COMPETENCY COMPONENT OF LEADERSHIP
It's been some time that there's been a lot of talk about leadership. Books, articles, advice, and
opinions. And leadership is needed. However, what may have lost its due importance in all of this is
the component of leadership which is competency. After all, while we want leadership to get people
to follow a direction, we certainly don't want them to be led to the wrong place, or through the
wrong course of action.
This oversight may be so built-in to the discussion that competency is not seen as an item to be
considered; it’s taken for granted, and in the last long while it seems the focus has solely been on
the leadership component.
So what does it mean, to say ‘competency component of leadership’? It means we are talking about
the ability to help an organization "resolve its most complex business problems". This from Kepner-
Tregoe, a multinational management consulting and training services company. When they explain
that the way this is done is for a new world, that is based on their work being represented in 18
countries by their ofﬁces in 13 countries across the globe. I am one of their trainees and have seen
the focus on the competency component give great results throughout my career. I also have in turn
provided training to others in aspects of it.
A look at the competency component starts with the premise of rational management, which is the
result of years of research, trial and error, and innovation based on applications of rational
The popular idea of teamwork is founded by teaching people to use four basic thinking patterns in
rational managing. These are regularly seen in the form of! questions: What's going on? Why did
this happen? Which course of action should we take? What lies ahead?
The ﬁrst question searches for clarity. The intention is to bring order to a situation that is uncertain
or confused. The second looks for cause and effect. It allows a person to move from observer of the
effect of a problem to understanding its cause. Only then can the cause of the problem be addressed.
The third question requires a choice to be made. A decision must be made about a course of action
to take. The fourth looks ahead to problems that might happen, and the decisions that might be
necessary in the future.
In an organizational context these questions and their intentions create processes, which when
followed create the competency component of leadership. In looking for clarity we ask, what's
going on? This begins a process of situation appraisal. When a situation pertaining to management
occurs, the information available usually confuses the relevant and the irrelevant, the important and
the inconsequential. Before anything can be done to resolve the situation it must be sorted out so its
components are seen in relation to each other. Each component has its own perspective.
When we apply cause and effect thinking we ask, why did this happen? This creates the second
process which is problem analysis. It allows us to be accurate in identifying, describing, analyzing,
and resolving a situation in which something has gone wrong without an explanation.
The third question creates the third process, decision analysis. The question it poses is, which
course of action should we take? Its process requires standing back from a situation that needs a
decision and evaluating the 3 components involved: the reasons for making a decision and the
purpose of the decision; analyzing the available options to achieve that purpose; and analyzing the
relative risks of each alternative.
The fourth process is created by asking, what lies ahead? It is called potential problem-opportunity
analysis. A potential problems exists when we can look ahead and see the possibility of trouble in a
situation. Thinking and acting beforehand is more capable than dealing with a problem that has
been allowed to develop. Similarly, potential opportunity analysis is looking ahead and anticipating
situations that we may be able to turn to our advantage. The fourth rational process enables an
organization to be active in shaping its future. A proactive outlook will shape that future, a reactive
one will be more laborious in dealing with problems that weren't seen beforehand.! !
While the foundation of teamwork is created by the thinking that goes with the 4 question types, we
also know that everyone has a personal and idiosyncratic way of understanding. This includes how
they handle and communicate things like the 4 processes, as is often seen in drawing cause-and-
effect relationships and choice making. The objective is to get thinking to be as high as it can be.
Some people are better at applying the processes than others, while others who are moderately
skilled at them can be better at communicating their conclusions.
"I don't see how you could arrive at that" is a commonly heard response. This is usually heard in
situations in which the information used in arriving at a conclusion remains invisible, and the way
in which the information was used also remains unknown to the observer.!
Teamwork that embraces the competency component brings that team to its pinnacle.!
Remembering, it is the 4 processes that create the foundation of the team, and the team reaches its
optimal performance when people learn to think together, at the highest level as can be.
Frank is a trainee of rational managing and has applied it throughout his career. He has also
trained other professionals in aspects of it.
References: Kepner, Charles H., Regoe, Benjamin B., The New Rational Manager, Princeton
Research Press, 2006.