What are Leadership Competencies?

Knowledge, values, abilities, and behaviors that help an individual contribute to or successfully engage in a role or task. Leadership competencies are used across sectors such as business, nonprofit, healthcare, education, military, law enforcement, library science, and hospitality. Nearly 75 percent of businesses and many professional associations use leadership competencies for training and evaluation.

How are Leadership Competencies Used?

  • To internally audit current program or curriculum for intended competencies
  • To lay out a program or curriculum framework for workshops, trainings, courses,
  • To specify competency proficiency that is necessary for successful completion of role or task (e.g. Job description)
  • To intentionally develop content using the competency framework
  • To draw from one set of standard assessment measures related to the competencies
  • To use a common language across all workshops, trainings, courses, or roles for benchmarking, aggregate assessment, and reporting
  • To create milestones for competency development for individuals

In higher education, it is recommended to use competencies to help foster and measure the growth/development of students in a learning environment as well as provide feedback on competency proficiency and effectiveness in leadership roles or experiences. It is not recommended to use language that says or assumes a student has achieved mastery in any competency by participating in an experience. They are only “contributing to their development.”

Critiques of Leadership Competencies

Critiques of leadership competencies include not accounting for situations or context, that there are too many to master yet not enough to cover the complexity of leadership, that they reflect a deficit-model, that they are leader-centric, and that there are sometimes contradictions between the competencies.

Assets of Leadership Competencies

There are many assets in using leadership competencies including that they provide a common language across an organization, they can help clarify expectations, they can be used to design intentional training, they can provide a tool for behavioral benchmarking, and they can be used to create a standardized method of assessing competency development and proficiency.

8 Reasons to Use Leadership Competencies in Higher Education

  1. Create a systematic method for intentional leadership development
  2. Provide an institution-wide means to measure leadership development
  3. Align with accreditation expectations
  4. Support what employers want/need
  5. Provide quantifiable evidence for funding
  6. Contribute to a leadership brand
  7. Ground developmental activities in research
  8. Are versatile and customizable based on institution and department needs