Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
Willa A. Foster
As we look at what is happening around the world in the public sector and the private, the challenges before us are significant and many. When we look to leaders, we have the right to ask, “Do they have what it takes to lead?” We can only hope that our leaders have the competence, will, and sense of hope that we can address our challenges. Leaders are called to develop the competence of their people. Competence is not just about aptitude; it is also about attitude. Competence is, like leadership itself, a combination of what we can do and how we go about doing it. We have to ask ourselves the same question, “Do I have what it takes to lead?” Since we lead by example, if we want to develop the competence of our people, we are the starting point. We must grow our own competence first.
In a previous posting, I wrote about Purpose. I suggested that having a sense of purpose is about finding the courage to imagine and pursue valued goals. Competence then is all about having the capacity to get the job done! We feel competent when we can freely imagine, start, and finish a task in a way that is deemed satisfactory by ourselves and by others. I would suggest that you are in the position you are because you have the competence to succeed. The challenge for each of us is remembering that and continually growing that capacity to succeed.
In the face of extreme challenges, it is possible for flashes of doubt to influence our behavior. When this happens, we experience inertia; we have energy but we remain stuck in neutral by our feelings of inferiority. We lack the capacity to focus our energy and think and act in an industrious and productive way. We do not feel competent. When we face extreme challenges – like those many are facing this year, we can forget what we are good at and we can stop focusing on growing ourselves. Leadership development is one of the first things jettisoned in a down economy. It is considered a luxury. Nothing could be further from the truth – and the most prudent path. Now is always the right time for some self-reflection and self-affirmation to remind ourselves that we have what we need to succeed! Great leaders are always open to and engaged in the personal and professional development. As the man says, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”
What do you know you are good at? Where have you experienced your greatest successes? How do you maintain your skill level? These are a few of the questions you might ask yourself as you attend to who you are in regards to competence.
How might you respond to the following statements?
I have experienced success in one or more endeavors. YES NO
I got a lot from my education. YES NO
I am realistic and honest in my evaluation of myself. YES NO
I have a good number of friends and a satisfactory social life. YES NO
I can start and finish projects with self-imposed deadlines. YES NO
My colleagues know me as a likeable team player. YES NO
I like to learn new things. YES NO
I participated in many different activities as a child. YES NO
I work and play well with others. YES NO
I am always reading at least one book. YES NO
I am confident about my abilities. YES NO
I just can’t seem to get moving on anything. YES NO
These questions, and your answers to them, indicate your self-assessment regarding not only your aptitude, but your attitude as well. Both aptitude and attitude impact our level of competence. With your answers to these questions as a starting point, the key question is, “What’s Next?”
Where is there room for improvement as a leader? WHere is there room for improvement in your life? What would you like to be able to do better? Or do at all? Would you like to be a better leader? Would you like to swim better or sing better or speak in public better? Do you want to be a better coach or mentor? Do you want to pursue more education? Do you want to learn to paint, or sculpt, or cook? Connecting with your truest self means discovering what you value, moving in that direction, and working to develop your gifts so you can most completely and honestly express who and what you are.
Here’s an exercise I do with some of my coaching clients:
• List five things you would like to do better or learn to do. (Your answers suggest that these are activities you value and would like to incorporate your life.)
• To move increase your competence at these things, what might you do?
• What will you have to stop doing?
• What keeps you from reworking your calendar to reflect your decision to make time to incorporate these activities into your life.
• Develop a plan of action for each activity (How much time will it take? How often will you engage in this activity? Do you need assistance to learn or relearn how to do this activity? If so, go get it.).
You know what you want to do better and you know which of your gifts you want to connect with more fully; it’s now just a matter of prioritizing and scheduling. You have what it takes to lead – and, you can always get better.