Competence is at the Root of Becoming an Extraordinary Leader

Soft skills are important, but competence is the core of becoming an extraordinary leader.

Warren Buffet said, “Look for three things in a person – intelligence, energy, and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even both with the first two.”

Read any leadership book, blog, or editorial and you will find a common theme. People often identify certain characteristics as being essential for extraordinary leadership. They are trustworthy, visionary, able to inspire, innovate, and communicate— and, of course, they are intelligent and competent.

We tend to take a leader’s competence for granted. After all, how did they become a leader in the first place without being competent? When assessing a leader’s strengths and weaknesses, career coaches often focus on improving soft skills like emotional intelligence or building trust. However, it is important to remember that a good leader must have the right “hard skills” to become extraordinary.

We all understand that competency is essential for an exceptional leader. However, we often fail to recognize that competence must also be developed.

Three Keys to Competence

Competence, in this context, is defined as “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.” You can have intelligence without skill, and experience without intelligence. But you can’t truly be competent without three key things:

1. Knowledge

Knowledge informs us, so we can make good decisions. Knowledge gives us facts and the theory of how something should work. This gives us a practical understanding of the task, issue, etc. at hand. We build on our knowledge by reading blog posts like this, books, or enrolling in workshops or leadership development courses.

2. Skill

Skill is the application of knowledge. Skill is knowing what we know and using it over and over again until we become really good at doing it. Effective leaders never stop working to improve their skills.

3. Experience

Experience happens when we use (and continually develop) our knowledge and skills repeatedly over time. Wisdom comes from experience.

Combining Hard and Soft Skills to Become an Extraordinary Leader

When we use our knowledge and skills, applying them toward our experiences, our competence grows. With greater competence come a greater ability to successfully accomplish our goals as leaders. Then, as we accomplish more, opportunities for greater challenges open up to us as well.

Competence is the root that puts us on the path to leadership opportunities. Competence provides us the confidence to have the mindset of an extraordinary leader. When competence is developed along with other skills, like good communication, negotiation, and problem solving, anyone can become an extraordinary leader.