Leadership Competencies:

Making Them Work


Could you be getting more from your leadership competencies? Or would like to find out more about what they are and how you can use leadership competencies to help your organisation’s leaders be more effective?

At this stage, we are focusing on leadership competencies rather than technical competencies. Your leaders will need both types of competencies and we will cover technical competencies separately.


So often we promote managers based on their technical ability.

Of course, we cannot always know how someone will perform as a leader until he or she is in a leadership position. And we do not always have the luxury of time or budget to provide training ahead of the promotion or even in the early stages of the leadership role.

However, if we help managers understand what they need to do to be effective leaders, then we can give them the best opportunity to behave appropriately or achieve their objectives.

Equally, if we do not provide training, mentoring and feedback, they may also struggle to perform.


Leadership competencies focus on the areas where your leaders need to be confident in order to perform effectively as leaders in your organisation. These are not the technical competencies that might be required but instead are the areas that are often referred to as softer skills.

 Leadership competencies vary between organisations but often include:

Motivating Your Team                                                                      Negotiation Skills                                                           Creating a Culture of Trust

Managing Resources                                                                         Problem Solving                                                             Coaching and Mentoring

Time Management                                                                            Managing Activities                                                       Managing Budgets and Costs

Planning Change                                                                                Managing People                                                           Setting Goals and Objectives

Dealing with Conflict                                                                         Managing Change                                                          Performance Management

Planning and Controlling Work                                                       Employee Development                                                 Effective Communication

Leadership Skills                                                                                Project Management                                                       Decision Making


A Leadership Competency Framework provides a structure for you to follow within your organisation to ensure that your leaders know what is expected, know how they are performing and know what they need to demonstrate in order to develop through the stages of competency.

It also provides you with a way to record the competencies that you want your leaders to achieve as well as providing a way to track progress against the competencies.

These competencies will vary between organisations. The competency and the detail of each competency may also vary between levels of the organisation.  And often the competency remains the same but the detail of what is expected varies at different leadership levels.


Making the Leadership Competency Framework Work: The Stages of Achieving Competency

To reach the point of being competent in a leadership competency, the manager progresses through 4 stages of competency. These match the stages highlighted in the framework.

Below is an overview of the 4 stages of competency that we find work well.

Initial Evaluation: Using the Leadership Competency Framework

To use the framework, you start by completing an initial evaluation of the manager against each of the competencies that have been agreed for this level of position. This can be completed by the manager or you can jointly complete it.

Like any people based process, it is essential to use evidence to support your reasons for the evaluation.

This evaluation then helps the managers to understand areas where they need to focus their development. It provides you or their managers with a process to highlight what is going well and what can be improved, and it provides a starting point for planning training requirements.

Finally, it provides a basis to work from and evaluate against as the managers are supported to progress from Level 1 Aware to Level 4 Expert. It can be a combination of on the job training, coaching, mentoring, off the job training, qualifications and experience that will be needed to help the manager progress through these levels.

Initial Evaluation Data: what does it tell you?

The graph below shows how you can collate the leadership competency information from this initial evaluation for each of your mangers. In this evaluation, we evaluated the competencies of 50 managers.  The results made it very clear where we needed to focus the training effort, helping the client and ourselves to understand which competencies should be focused on first and enabling us to develop a training programme from an informed starting point.


Below is a 5 step process that you can use with your managers as part of a leadership development programme. This will work for any type of leadership development programme which could include mentoring, on the job training or formal training and qualification.

After the leadership development programme, this review was incorporated into each leader’s own Leadership Competency Framework for the leaders to continue to work towards.

If you would like a free competency leadership framework template, please get in touch at helen@polaris-learning.com


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