Real Leaders - What-ness (Competence)

Over the last few decades, the subject of effective leadership is continually grabbing the attention of the corporate and political world. Among the key issues about leadership is how leaders could thrive in an ever-changing and complex environment to unleash the best in their people.

The recent HBR article titled “You Need Two Leadership Gears”, discusses how leaders need to know when to take charge and when to get out of the way, that is, applying bimodal leadership.  

According to Real Leaders Framework established by Dr. Lily Cheng and Dr. Peter Cheng, one of the eight essentials of Real Leaders is Competence.  Real® leaders demonstrate expertise in what is expected and required of their position. They display a propensity to equip themselves and their constituents with the requisite knowledge, skills, and attitudes to perform their role effectively and efficiently. 

Leaders must be adept at shifting their powers from controlling to empowering mode and back to control if the situation warrants it.  Having the competence to know when they should be using either power mode when working with their teams is key to being bimodal in their leadership engagements.    

Let’s take a look at how leaders can develop bimodal leadership, using the conscious competence ladder by Noel Burch. 

Unconscious Incompetence 

At this stage, the leader is unaware of the mode of leadership he is exercising and often inclining to one favourite mode, either controlling or empowering their team members.

Conscious Incompetence

Through reflection on the failed attempts to get their team members to deliver their best or through feedback from others, leaders realise their incompetence in applying bimodal leadership styles. They realise the need to practise empowering or controlling, depending on their people’s willingness and ability to do the assigned tasks. 

Conscious competence

At this juncture, the leader pays more attention to assessing the situation in relation to the task at hand and the employee’s ability and willingness, to decide if empowering ( giving employees the liberty to decide and act) or controlling works best to deliver the best possible outcome. 

Unconscious competence

Over time, the leader gets used to assessing the situation and the employee’s willingness and ability and spontaneously applies bimodal leadership to get things done. Apply bimodal leadership becomes a second nature 

Real leaders are cognisant of the need to stay relevant and competent to lead as much as they are deliberate in up-skilling their people. In this light, it is critical that leaders continue to reflect on their competence in shifting between the gears of controlling and empowering.  

As Alvin Tofler said that the illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

For further readings on how leaders can consciously be bimodal in shifting between the gears of taking charge and letting go, you can read the HBR article "You Need Two Leadership Gears".

You can  find out more about PACE's Real Leadership solutions here.

Other posts you may be interested in...