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Perspectives

Leadership competency modeling

From competency to capability

Traditional leadership competency models are no longer effective in today’s evolving market. To stay competitive, organizations need a new, concise method that employees can easily interpret and apply to their roles. Our condensed, eight-part leadership competency model clearly and simply describes the competencies required to be strong leaders.

Questioning the value of current competency modeling

Traditional leadership competency models are notorious for providing too much information, with dozens of categories, competencies, levels of competencies, and proficiencies described in a single model.

Organizations can spend countless dollars and months—even years—developing competency models that are intricate, time-consuming to read, difficult to understand, and nearly impossible to execute.

We’ve spent decades exploring what makes businesses, leaders, and employees effective, and we’ve concluded that it’s time to change the traditional competency model. Implementing a more concise, clear, and relevant tool that organizational leaders and their employees can understand and apply to their roles is crucial to effective leadership capability modeling.

Next-generation competency modeling

  • From leadership "competency model" to "capability model." To start, we’ve made a purposeful decision to replace the word "competency" with "capability." Unlike traditional leadership competency model descriptions that refer to both the skill a leader must have (ensures accountability) and innate personality traits related to that skill (action-oriented), our leadership capability model makes a key distinction between what leaders can do (capabilities) and the personal factors that allow them to develop those skills (potential).
  • From analysis paralysis to action. When refreshing a traditional leadership competency model, organizations often turn inward, looking deeper within their own organizations, describing who their exceptional leaders are, how they operate, and the values that they hold. In doing so, organizations may neglect to include the crucial ingredients of effective leadership that exist beyond their own four walls. So why do we continue to focus inwardly rather than on outcomes? A faster method exists that’s designed to more effectively develop leaders into world-class talent and impact business results.
  • From wordy to concise. Over the years, we’ve assessed more than 23,000 senior leaders and high potentials across industries, investigating the differences between how leaders operate in different industries and functional specialties. We found they were all doing the same things at the core, but the expression of those constructs were tailored to their contexts. We worked with some organizations that started with their own homegrown models. These organizations were producing models that were lean and simple, and they encompassed not only what leaders would say, but also what leaders might actually use.
  • From "competency library" to homegrown models. The "competency library" approach, used by most leadership consulting firms, typically offers a library of anywhere from 30 to 50 leadership competencies from which their clients build their own customized model with the assumption that a better model leads to better leadership. At the other end of the spectrum, homegrown models are lean and concise, consisting of only a handful of competencies that are intended to be applied to the entire organization. The natural argument for the "competency library" approach is that by offering more competencies, it will describe more thoroughly what it means to be a leader. However, there’s not much difference in terms of content. Both get at the same essential items leaders need to do well, yet the homegrown model is simpler and easier to use.
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The Deloitte leadership eight capability model

The Deloitte Leadership practice has concluded that both "competency library" and homegrown capability models say the same basic things. So, rather than try to “outdefine” the competition by searching for the best, new, right answer, we’ve permanently closed the case on defining the best leaders and boiled all the formulas and points of view down into a universal framework.

We realized that if we offered an extensive competency library of our own, it would only duplicate what other leadership consultancies have been offering, with questionable impact. Almost everyone has similar content, whether it’s captured in 30 leadership competencies or five, so getting the content right is neither the only nor the most important differentiator. If we paid attention to what we found in our research, it was that the list of essential leadership capabilities was relatively short.

If we paid attention to what our most sophisticated clients were doing, we could see that an elegantly simple "less is more" approach was the real value add.

Our philosophy for gaining buy-in is centered on making sure our core model translates into a "dialect" that makes sense for their local context and empowering leaders to quickly leverage their new model for impact. Instead of investing in the design process, we want to focus on validation and swift adjustments that enable implementation and deliver impact as quickly as possible.

The time for new competency modeling is now

To compete in today’s marketplace, when adopting and implementing a capability model, organizations should consider shifting toward a lean, simplified approach. A universal leadership capability model makes it possible to:

  • Rapidly ground leaders in the core constructs they need to know—regardless of the context in which they operate—and empower them to lead more effectively, faster.
  • Apply proven leadership skills for more immediate impact, in a more cost-effective manner.
  • Place the focus on the end user to foster greater capability-model understanding, impact, and resilience.

Ultimately, shifting to a leadership capability model that’s clear, concise, and easier to understand than a traditional model can help organizations adapt to a rapidly changing environment and focus on outcomes, rather than on defining and aligning on definitions that already exist.

Have questions about how to develop a leadership competency model? Contact us.
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