It seems like a never ending debate: What are the competencies of an effective leader? Steve Tobak offers yet another take on leadership in his list of core competencies:  

Flexibility. Willingness to change direction, do what it takes, let go of personal agenda, and swallow pride, all for the greater good and the overall health of the business.

Honesty. Courage to look people - especially customers and authority figures - straight in the eye and tell them the genuine truth, regardless of consequences.

Leadership. This is not as complex or subjective as you might think. Leadership is the ability to encourage people to follow you, especially when they don’t have to.

Accountability. Willingness to take responsibility, own a problem, and be held accountable over the long haul, regardless of the risk.

Intelligence. Anybody who denies this is full of it. Everything else can be learned, but not this. Forget old notions of book smart versus street smart. You have to be both.

This is an interesting list from someone who has been in a number of top leadership positions. However, I don’t agree with Tobak that everything besides “intelligence” is learnable, at least not by the kind of structured leadership development programs typical in business today. All of these competencies, if not learned very early in life, have to be shaped over time, from many experiences, and with much feedback from mentors, coaches, and co-workers followed by personal awareness and reflection.

An example of someone who exhibits these competencies and the long struggle (out of necessity) to become an effective leader is Jeff Benes. On August 25th, as part of his radio show “The Story”™, Dick Gordon interviewed Benes, who is part owner and CEO of the North Carolina company Catalyst Manufacturing Services. Benes exemplifies the competencies identified by Tobak, but his path to success was bumpy and difficult. Benes’ story is probably not going to become a Harvard Business Case or be featured in Fortune, but it is a story that demonstrates some of the best values in business management and leadership. Not learned from an MBA program or from attending leadership workshops, his competencies were learned from trial and error in real world experiences over time by observing his world and with much support from others.

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