Business moguls sometimes act like ship captains who couldn’t pilot a toy boat in a bathtub. Politicians offer incoherent arguments and dull platitudes to address society’s pressing problems. Public education is often stifled by bureaucracy and tenured faculty with little accountability for student success. Even the simple task of efficient service at a fast food restaurant seems out of reach.
Competent leadership emerges from a culture of accountability. If a child is never held to moral or social standards of conduct, what will guide her behavior at work? When political leaders lie and cheat without legal consequences, why should they conduct themselves differently? If special interests can influence education, will standards of excellence or choice win in the end?
However, being viewed as competent isn’t only about accountability. Leaders must create a powerful vision that encourages employees to see beyond their daily tasks toward a greater purpose. If team members know they are helping to create better patient care or produce job-ready students they will be less likely to accept mediocre effort from themselves and others. Competency is built through this drive to achieve the greater vision.
Competency also increases when employees are invited to suggest process improvements. If an already competent leader isn’t threatened by other people’s ideas, competency will increase throughout the organization.
Today, personal image and ego too often parade as substance. Social media has conditioned us to show the world we are smart and competent even while our posts, photos, and tweets often exemplify something different. Our leadership reputation and competency suffer when we make this mistake.
The legacy of a competent leader will be defined by what others remember and miss about them long after they are gone. Sadly, many of us may be leaving a shallow heritage.
The cynic in me says it might not matter. Will there be anyone competent enough to write about it anyway?