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Leadership Qualifications Defined

By Steve Bareham, GMNET Editor

There are few instances in our lives where analysis, planning, decision making, and doing are more important than in our careers. Unfortunately, failure to understand and attend to professional development stalls and/or tragically derails untold numbers of executive careers every year. Many of these tragedies are avoidable because the information profile defining “excellent executives” is readily available—what’s lacking is effective analysis, planning, decision making, and doing.

For example, excerpts from the executive core qualifications designated by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for the Defense Leadership and Management Program, reveal what 3rd Millennium leaders must know and be able to do and accomplish. Such information provides an excellent blueprint for ongoing development.

As you read and analyze, underline or circle all the operative words and phrases that pinpoint specific desirable knowledge, skills, and attitudes that a person with ambitious career objectives should either have or immediately set out to acquire—these can become the ingredients of your recipe for success. 

Leading Change

“...encompasses the ability to develop and implement an organizational vision which integrates key national and program goals, priorities, values, and other factors. Inherent to it is the ability to balance change and continuity—to continually strive to improve customer service and program create a work environment that encourages creative thinking, and to maintain focus, intensity and persistence, even under adversity.

Key Characteristics

“Exercising leadership and motivating managers to incorporate vision, strategic planning, and elements of quality management into the full range of the organization’s activities; encouraging creative thinking and innovation; influencing others toward a spirit of service; designing and implementing new or cutting edge programs/processes.

“Identifying and integrating key issues affecting the organization, including political, economic, social, technological, and administrative factors...

“...Being open to change and new information; tolerating ambiguity; adapting behavior and work methods in response to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles; adjusting rapidly to new situations warranting attention and resolution. Displaying a high level of initiative, effort, and commitment to public service; being proactive and achievement-oriented; being self-motivated; pursuing self-development; seeking feedback from others and opportunities to master new knowledge...  Leadership Competency Definitions:

Vision: “Takes a long-term view and acts as a catalyst for organizational change; builds a shared vision with others. Influences others to translate vision into action.

External Awareness: “Identifies and keeps up to date on key national and international policies and economic, political, and social trends that affect the organization. Understands near-term and long-range plans and determines how best to be positioned to achieve a competitive business advantage in a global economy.

Creativity and Innovation: “Develop new insights into situations and applies innovative solutions to make organizational improvements; creates a work environment that encourages creative thinking and innovation; designs and implements new or cutting-edge programs/processes.

Strategic Thinking: “Formulates effective strategies consistent with the business and competitive strategy of the organization in a global economy. Examines policy issues and strategic planning with a long-term perspective. Determines objectives and sets priorities; anticipates potential threats or opportunities.

Continual Learning: “Grasps the essence of new information; masters new technical and business knowledge; recognizes own strengths and weaknesses; pursues self-development; seeks feedback from others and opportunities to master new knowledge.

Resilience: “Deals effectively with pressure; maintains focus and intensity and remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity. Recovers quickly from setbacks. Effectively balances personal and work life.

Flexibility: “Is open to change and new information; adapts behavior and work methods in response to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles. Adjusts rapidly to new situations warranting attention and resolution.

Service Motivation: “Creates and sustains an organizational culture which encourages others to provide the quality of service essential to high performance. Enables others to acquire the tools and support they need to perform well. Shows a commitment to public service and meaningful contributions to mission accomplishment.

Leading People: “This core qualification involves the ability to design and implement strategies which maximize employee potential and foster high ethical standards in meeting the organization’s vision, mission, and goals.

Key Characteristics:

“Providing leadership in setting the workforce’s expected performance levels commensurate with the organization’s strategic objectives; inspiring, motivating, and guiding others toward goal accomplishment; empowering people by sharing power and authority. Promoting quality through effective use of the organization’s performance management system (e.g. establishing performance standards, appraising staff accomplishments using the developed standards, and taking action to reward, counsel, or remove employees, as appropriate).

“Valuing cultural diversity and other differences; fostering an environment where people who are culturally diverse can work together cooperatively and effectively in achieving organizational goals. Assessing employees’ unique developmental needs and providing developmental opportunities which maximize employees’ capabilities and contribute to the achievement of organizational goals; developing leadership in others through coaching and mentoring.

“Fostering commitment, team spirit, pride, trust, and group identity; taking steps to prevent situations that could result in unpleasant confrontations. Leadership Competency Definitions:

Conflict Management

“Identifies and takes steps to prevent potential situations that could result in unpleasant confrontations. Manages and resolves conflicts and disagreements in a positive and constructive manner to minimize negative impact.

Cultural Awareness

“Initiates and manages cultural change within the organization to impact organizational effectiveness. Values cultural diversity and other individual differences in the workforce. Ensures that the organization builds on these differences and that employees are treated in a fair and equitable manner.

Team Building

“Inspires, motivates, and guides others toward goal accomplishments. Consistently develops and sustains cooperative working relationships. Encourages and facilitates cooperation within the organization and with customer groups; fosters commitment, team spirit, pride, and trust. Develops leadership in others through coaching, mentoring, rewarding, and guiding employees.

Integrity / Honesty

“Instills mutual trust and confidence; creates a culture that fosters high standards of ethics; behaves in a fair and ethical manner toward others, and demonstrates a sense of corporate responsibility and commitment to public service...

Key Characteristics:

“Stressing results by formulating strategic program plans which assess policy/program feasibility and include realistic short- and long-term goals and objectives. Exercising good judgment, instructing, and organizing work and setting priorities; balancing the interests of clients and readily readjusting priorities to respond to customer demands. Anticipating and identifying, diagnosing, and consulting on potential or actual problem areas relating to program implementation and goal achievement; selecting from alternative courses of corrective action, and taking action from developed contingency plans.

“Setting program standards, holding self and others accountable for achieving these standards; acting decisively to modify them to promote customer service and/or the quality of programs and policies. Identifying opportunities to develop and market new products and services...; ...taking risks to pursue a recognized benefit or advantage...

Leadership Competency Definitions:

Problem Solving

“Identifies and analyzes problems; distinguishes between relevant and irrelevant information to make logical decisions; provides solutions to individual and organizational problems.


“Exercises good judgment by making sound and well-informed decisions; perceives the impact and implications of decisions; makes effective and timely decisions, even when data is limited or solutions produce unpleasant consequences; is proactive and achievement oriented...

Technical Credibility

“Understands and appropriately applies procedures, requirements, regulations, and policies related to specialized expertise. Is able to make sound hiring and capital resource decisions and to address training and development needs. Understands linkages between administrative competencies and mission needs.


“This core qualification involves the ability to explain, advocate and express facts and ideas in a convincing manner, and negotiate with individuals and groups internally and externally. It also involves the ability to develop an expansive professional network with other organizations and to identify the internal and external politics that impact the work of the organization.

Key Characteristics:

“Representing and speaking for the organizational unit and its work (e.g., presenting, explaining, selling, defining, and negotiating) to government officials, staff; the media, clientele, and professional groups; making clear and convincing oral presentations to individuals and groups; listening effectively and clarifying information; facilitating an open exchange of ideas...

“Developing and enhancing alliances with external groups (e.g., other agencies or firms, state and local governments, Congress, and clientele groups); engaging in cross-functional activities; finding common ground with a widening range of stakeholders. Working in groups and teams; conducting briefings and other meetings; gaining cooperation from others to obtain information and accomplish goals, facilitating "win-win" situations...

“Seeing that reports, memoranda, and other documents reflect the position and work of the organization in a clear, convincing, and organized manner...  Leadership Competency Definitions:

Oral Communication

“Makes clear and convincing oral presentations to individuals or groups; listens effectively and clarifies information as needed; facilitates an open exchange of ideas and fosters an atmosphere of open communication.

Written Communication

“Expresses facts and ideas in writing in a clear, convincing and organized manner.

Influencing / Negotiating

“Persuades others; builds consensus through give and take; gains cooperation from others to obtain information and accomplish goals; facilitates ‘win-win’ situations.


“Develops networks and builds alliances, engages in cross-functional activities; collaborates across boundaries, and finds common ground with a widening range of stakeholders. Utilizes contacts to build and strengthen internal support bases.”


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