Character and Personality #8: Competency

by Gary Monti on August 24, 2010

Delivering the goods is the final judgment for leaders. This means in addition to charisma there needs to be character strength and competency. Competency means, “to be fit for (Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology).” This can be challenging because of the number of boundaries present, which can be fluid and not always precise. In general, though, the boundaries can be looked at as those between technology and sophistication.

Technology

“Technology” comes from the Greek “techne” and refers to a craft or skill for getting things done such as farming or carpentry. So, technology has to do with the rules for getting things done, for implementing. This is why tools are also called implements. There is no reflection of greater truths. It’s just about what it takes to get something done, e.g., the creation of a circuit board. A competent leader is keenly aware of the need to pay close attention to the technology and its implementation since the devil is in the details. Does the leader need to be technically competent? No. The leader can be surrounded by those possessing technology and a willingness to work together to bring about the product (more on that later). Does this mean that technology is trivial – far from it. The technology can exist outside of the leader.

Sophistication

“Sophistication” comes from the Greek “sophia” and means “wisdom”. A leader needs to be sophisticated which has a great deal of humility associated with it (see blog on humility). In other words, a competent leader is aware of the limits present in a situation, including his or her own.

Wisdom has a depth to it that goes beyond technical competency. A competent leader understands that in a complicated situation there is more than one truth system at play. In fact, there is at least one truth system for every belief system present.

Competent Leadership

A competent leader finds a balance among the technologies and truth systems present. An earlier blog on change management references Henry Kaiser and his ability to lead in bringing Liberty ships to life in World War II. Aristotle referred to this type of person as a good politician, one who finds a way to thread through a situation to reveal a path that, when followed, benefits the common good.

There is a fluidity to a leadership situation. To be competent means to be grounded in the right set of principles with the right priorities and be able to flex with the situation. There are no rules for that. There is no technology.

Maybe you can see why it is so important to be able to answer the question, “Who are you?” discussed in the blog on Panic and Self-Doubt. Unlike technology, sophistication must be within the leader.

The importance of technology then is a reflection of sophistication. A reflection of the balance within and among the leader and stakeholders involved, including the team. Competence pulls all of the above together so that one person can meet another person’s needs, i.e., a connection comprising the humanity of the stakeholders who need and commit to finding a solution that works.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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