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The Skills Leaders Need at Every Level


Jul. 30, 2014 HBR Blogs

A few weeks ago, we were asked to analyze a competency model for leadership development that a client had created. Its was based on the idea that at different points in their development, potential leaders need to focus on excelling at different skills. For example, in their model they proposed that a lower level manager should focus on driving for results while top executives should focus on developing a strategic perspective.

Intuitively, this makes sense, based as it is on the assumption that once people develop a skill, they will continue to exercise it. But, interestingly, we don’t apply it in athletics; athletes continue to practice and develop the same skills throughout their careers.  And as we thought about the excellent senior executives we have met, we observed that they are, in fact, all very focused on delivering results, and many of the best lower level managers are absolutely clear about strategy and vision. This got us to wondering: Are some skills less important for leaders at certain levels of the organization? Or is there a set of skills fundamental to every level?

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