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Core Competency Models - What Are the Criteria Used in Competency Models and Why?

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  1. What are the criteria used in Competency models and why?

Competency models are psychological metrics used for recognizing leadership potential in individuals. These ‘metrics for leadership’ can be broadly grouped into three categories –

  • Core Competencies (technical skills)
  • Cognitive Understanding (logical and analytical reasoning)
  • Emotional Intelligence (ability to guide and work in teams, empathy)

Core competencies such as technical knowledge, ability to generate profitability and effectiveness in strategy are important leadership capabilities across the spectrum of levels in an organization. They are a natural factor of leadership potential as these capabilities benefit the customer and by extension, the business. Further, they are those traits that  lead to competitive advantage and organizational effectiveness and therefore, typify leaders across sectors and  industry.

Cognitive skills or IQ is a measure of an individual’s intellect. Big picture thinking, driving experience building opportunities, analytical and logical reasoning capabilities aid in making calculated and informed decisions that eventually work to the benefit of the organization. Since leaders are almost always expected to make judgement calls  and more importantly, make them right, cognitive skills figure as an important criteria in competency models.

The most important judging criteria in most competency models happens to be Emotional Intelligence. Traits such as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills come under the purview of this competency. The findings of various studies highlight the fact that as one ascends the organizational hierarchy, the importance of technical competencies declines and that of emotional intelligence gains importance. A good leader is one who can put himself/herself in others’ shoes, can motivate others and can lead by example. The following visualization[1] from Harvard Business Review lists some of the most sought after skills in leaders.

[pic 1]

As can be inferred from the graphic, emotional intelligence factors are far more sought after for leadership positions than the other two categories of skills. This said, a standard competency model would utilize the above three categories of traits with a higher weightage for emotional intelligence capabilities, for analysis of leadership potential.


  1. How can one ensure to be not seen as ‘cold fish’ while strengthening their self-regulation skills?

Self-regulation is the ability to control one’s impulsive behavior and channel it into something productive. Leaders with a rein on their emotions and feelings are generally calm, and thus create a stable work environment by minimizing organizational conflicts. They are also adaptable to change. However, a leader with good self-regulation does not get due credit as his/her considered and calculated responses are misconstrued as aloofness or being cold fish.

To ensure that one is not looked upon as cold fish while strengthening self-regulation characteristics, one needs to parallelly practice the other traits of emotional intelligence – the most important of which are motivation and empathy. When a leader is driven by the need to achieve and makes conscious, self-regulated efforts towards it, a trickle-down effect is seen through the organizational hierarchy. This results in a passion for the work and by extension, a happy, motivated work environment. And a happy work environment is a productive work environment.

When a leader develops empathy along with self-regulation, he/she gains new perspectives in his/her decision-making. The leader is able to place himself/herself in the employee’s shoes and look at things from their point of view. This invariably, leads to more informed, better decisions and less disgruntled employees. When empathy is combined with self-regulation, a leader becomes an inspiration. He/she builds strong teams. Empathetic leaders understand their employees and motivate them towards excellence.



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