The Fifth Side of Leadership is Competence

In Pat Williams’s book, Leadership Excellence, he discusses the 7 Sides of Leadership. The fifth side of leadership is Competence.

Pat defines competence as “the ability to perform the leadership role in a highly effective way.” A leader of competence displays the attitudes, skills, abilities, and behaviors needed to function at a high level and to take the organization to higher levels of success. Competence is not a static condition. It’s a state of one’s continual dynamic growth, both as a person and a leader.


In the book, Learning to Lead, authors Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith wrote:

“Leaders are made, not born and are created as much by themselves as by the demands of their times. They have a talent for continually learning about themselves. They seek to know who they are, what they want, why they want it, and how to gain support to achieve it. They are committed to continually growing throughout their lives. Some do not blossom until their later years. These accomplishments demonstrate it is never too late to begin.”

According to Pat, the overall competence of a leader can be broken down into 18 specific competencies. Here are two of the competencies that all great leaders share. (Be sure to check out the book for much more detail on all of the incredibly valuable information he shares).

First, there is the competency of problem-solving. If you are not a problem solver, you are not a leader. Many people avoid problems. Great leaders eat problems for breakfast. General Colin Powell said, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing their problems to you is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence in you to help them or have concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure in leadership.”

Next, is the competency of lifelong learning. John Wooden said, “Live as though you will die tomorrow. Learn as though you’ll live forever.” Leaders must fall in love with learning. Leaders who excel over time are always learning, always striving to stay current, and always scanning the horizon for new insights and ideas.

The First Seven Letters of “Competence” Are C-O-M-P-E-T-E.

The goal of every competent leader is to prepare his or her team to compete and win. People want to know that you can lead them to victory. Your competence gives them confidence. Confident organizations accomplish great goals and achieve big visions. Your competence as a leader is measured by the accomplishments of your team or organization. In our world of business, it is measured by profit and loss and return on investment.