The 8 Most Critical Leadership Competencies

In their 2001 book The Leadership Machine, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger presented a leadership competency framework that included 67 competencies. Yes, you read that right – 67. That’s a lot of competencies for us to master! Based on extensive research, the list covers the universe of leadership competencies, from “price of admission” skills like ethics and integrity to competitive differentiators such as business acumen and decision quality. The list is so exhaustive that when the authors examined over 100 corporate leadership competencies, they found that 85% of those competencies could be found in their framework. Leadership may be a complex animal, but it certainly has been well examined and classified.

I have a lot of respect for Lombardo and Eichinger’s research, and enjoy dipping into the list when I need ideas for leadership competencies. At the same time, I’ve written a lot of corporate competency models over the years, and most all of them were limited to 7-8 skills (for ease-of-use reasons). With apologies to situational leadership or models built for various levels (both of which are concepts I fully endorse), I find myself drawn to these eight critical competencies. If I were building a leader from scratch in the laboratory, I would give her these eight skills:

Integrity/Ethics – this is the foundation; you must tell the truth and do the right thing
Visioning/Strategy – leaders need to point the way and develop compelling plans
Results Focus – leaders must have a bias for action and be relentless about getting things done
Judgment – a great differentiator – it seems you either have it or you don’t
Passion/Optimism – who doesn’t want to work for someone who exudes positive energy?
Building the Team – great leaders hire and surround themselves with great talent
Cares For/Develops Others – people flock to leaders who have a reputation for growing talent
Accountability – leaders have to accept and create a culture of accountability

That’s my list – let me know what you think of it. I will say this – when I’ve had bosses that excelled at all of these competencies, it’s been a pleasure to go to work each day. And if they were missing a few of these? Oh man, don’t get me started…