Leadership competencies: time to change the tune?
University of Exeter
This paper indicates how the competency approach to leadership could be conceived of as a repeating refrain that continues to offer an illusory promise to rationalise and simplify the processes of selecting, measuring and developing leaders yet only reflects a fragment of the complexity that is leadership. To make this argument we draw on two discrete sets of data: a review of leadership competency frameworks and an analysis of participant reports from a reflective leadership development programme. A lexical analysis comparing the two data sets highlights a substantial difference with regards to the relative importance placed on the moral, emotional and relationship dimensions of leadership. The implications of these differences are considered, as are ways in which the competency approach could be aligned more closely with the current and future needs of leaders and organisations. In particular, we argue that a more discursive approach that helps reveal and challenge underlying organisational assumptions is likely to be more beneficial if organisations are looking to move beyond individualistic notions of leadership to more inclusive and collective forms. Methodological issues are also raised around the comparative analysis (both semantic and linguistic) of apparently incommensurable texts.
Vol. 2, No. 2, 147-163