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Competency, caring most important tools of leadership

  • Published
  • By Capt. Julia Dockery
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Protocol
Works on the subject of leadership weigh down bookstore shelves the world over. You can find how to be a 30-second manager, how to inspire your employees like Winston Churchill, and the three keys to strength-based leadership. What is it that defines true leadership? Is there a list of traits I must possess to be an effective leader?

For me, I think competency and caring are key aspects to being an effective leader. Yet no one seems to be able to agree on what competency really is. Is it a skill? Is it a behavior? Is it knowledge? Or, is it a value? And caring, is it an emotion? Is it an action? What is "it"?

I feel competency starts with dedication. People want to follow someone who is competent. This doesn't mean a leader needs to be the foremost expert on every area of the entire organization, but they do need to be able to demonstrate competency.

You need to know where to find the answers, what AFIs apply and at times spend the energy to research for yourself. You must be dedicated to spend whatever time and energy is necessary to get the job done. A leader inspires dedication by example, doing what it takes to complete the next step toward the vision and not by delegating all tasks. By setting the example, knowing what it takes and researching on your own, leaders can show followers there are no 9-to-5 jobs on the team, only opportunities to achieve something great.

When people under your leadership look at some action you have taken and think, "that just goes to show why he/she is the one in charge", you are demonstrating competency. Of course, the leader does not always have the best answer but they should know where to find the best answers.

Like the other traits, it isn't enough for a leader to be competent. They must demonstrate competency in a way that people notice. This can be a delicate balance. There is a danger of drawing too much attention to oneself in a way that makes the leader appear arrogant.

Another potential danger is that of minimizing others contributions and appearing to take credit for the work of others. As a leader, one of the safest ways to "toot you own horn without blowing it", is to celebrate and bring attention to team achievements. In this way you indirectly point out your competency as a leader.

This brings us to magnanimity.  For me magnanimity is simply caring for your team. Magnanimity means giving credit where it is due. Ensure credit for successes is spread as widely as possible and conversely, take personal responsibility for failures. To spread the fame and take the blame is a hallmark of an effective leader.

If you are able to increase your skill in displaying leadership characteristics, you will make it easier for people to want to follow you. The less time you have to spend on getting others to follow you, the more time you have to spend refining exactly where you want to go and how to get there. But always remember: No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.