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Unlocking Leadership Excellence: The Crucial Competencies for Success

In today's dynamic and ever-changing business landscape, effective leadership goes beyond traditional notions of authority and technical expertise. Research has consistently shown that the most impactful leaders possess a unique set of competencies centered around soft skills and emotional intelligence. However, these competencies often point to deeper qualities that are essential for leadership success.

The Most Important Global Leadership Competencies

Drawing on a survey conducted with 195 leaders from various global organizations, today we will explore five major themes of competencies that strong leaders exhibit. It also highlights the challenges leaders face when mastering these competencies and emphasizes the importance of actively improving them.

High Ethical Standards and Providing a Safe Environment

Leaders who prioritize high ethical standards create a foundation of trust within their organizations. By setting an example of integrity and accountability, they establish a safe and transparent environment where employees feel valued and secure. These leaders foster open communication channels, encouraging employees to voice their concerns and contribute to organizational growth.

Example: A CEO who consistently promotes ethical behavior by ensuring fair compensation, transparent decision-making processes, and strict adherence to legal and moral principles cultivates a culture of trust and integrity.

Empowering Individuals to Self-Organize

Effective leaders understand the power of empowering their teams to self-organize. By delegating authority and granting autonomy, they foster a sense of ownership and accountability among their employees. This approach not only enhances productivity but also encourages creativity and innovation.

Example: A manager who encourages team members to take ownership of projects, make decisions, and collaborate freely allows for the emergence of diverse perspectives, resulting in more comprehensive and innovative solutions.

Promoting Connection and Belonging Among Employees

Leaders who prioritize connection and belonging create a positive work environment where individuals feel valued and supported. By fostering a sense of community and inclusivity, these leaders enhance employee engagement, loyalty, and overall well-being.

Example: A team leader who organizes regular team-building activities, encourages cross-department collaboration, and promotes an open-door policy creates a sense of belonging and camaraderie among team members.

Open to New Ideas and Experimentation

Leaders who embrace openness to new ideas and experimentation foster a culture of innovation and adaptability. By encouraging creative thinking, risk-taking, and learning from failures, these leaders inspire their teams to continuously push boundaries and find new solutions.

Example: An executive who regularly seeks input from employees, encourages brainstorming sessions, and allocates resources for pilot projects demonstrates a commitment to exploring new ideas and approaches.

Committed to the Professional and Intellectual Growth of Employees

Leaders who prioritize the growth and development of their employees create a motivated and high-performing workforce. By providing mentorship, training opportunities, and ongoing feedback, these leaders empower individuals to reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully to organizational success.

Example: A supervisor who works closely with employees to identify their career aspirations, provides relevant training opportunities, and offers constructive feedback fosters a culture of continuous learning and personal growth.

Strategies Leaders Can Use to Actively Improve these Competencies

Actively improving these competencies requires leaders to adopt specific strategies that focus on personal growth and development. Here are some strategies that leaders can implement:

  1. Continuous Learning and Self-Reflection: Leaders should prioritize their own learning and engage in self-reflection to identify areas for improvement. This can include attending leadership development programs, reading relevant books and articles, seeking feedback from peers and mentors, and engaging in introspective practices such as journaling or meditation.

  2. Seek Diverse Perspectives: Leaders should actively seek out diverse perspectives and encourage a culture of inclusivity within their teams. This can be achieved by fostering an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions, promoting diversity in recruitment and team composition, and actively seeking input from team members with different backgrounds and experiences.

  3. Develop Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence is a critical competency for leaders. Leaders can enhance their emotional intelligence by developing self-awareness, empathy, and effective communication skills. This can be achieved through self-reflection, seeking feedback, practicing active listening, and investing in emotional intelligence training or coaching.

  4. Foster a Learning Culture: Leaders should create a culture that values learning, growth, and experimentation. This can be done by encouraging employees to take risks, learn from failures, and share their knowledge and experiences. Leaders can also promote continuous learning by providing resources for training and development, organizing knowledge-sharing sessions or workshops, and recognizing and rewarding employees' efforts in pursuing personal and professional growth.

  5. Lead by Example: Leaders should model the behaviors and competencies they seek to develop in their teams. By consistently demonstrating high ethical standards, empowering individuals, promoting connection and belonging, embracing new ideas, and investing in employee growth, leaders can inspire their teams to follow suit.

  6. Seek Support and Feedback: Leaders should actively seek support and feedback from mentors, coaches, and trusted colleagues. These individuals can provide valuable insights, guidance, and accountability to help leaders in their journey of self-improvement. Engaging in regular coaching sessions or participating in leadership development programs can also facilitate growth and provide opportunities for feedback and reflection.

Incorporating these strategies into their leadership practices, leaders can actively improve the identified competencies and enhance their overall effectiveness as leaders. By embracing a growth mindset and committing to continuous improvement, leaders can inspire and empower their teams, foster a positive work environment, and drive organizational success.


While the competencies outlined above may seem obvious, they present significant challenges for leaders to master. Overcoming these challenges requires leaders to act against their natural inclinations at times, making it crucial for them to actively improve these competencies. By prioritizing high ethical standards, empowering individuals, promoting connection and inclusion, embracing openness to new ideas, and committing to employee growth, leaders can unlock their full potential and drive organizational success in today's complex business landscape.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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