R.I.P Competency Frameworks

By Carl Sanders-Edwards

Feb 27

Competency frameworks have dominated Leadership Development for the last 30 years.

They do a great job at summarising the capabilities that make great leadership. They provide a backbone to development…

1) Get assessed against a set of competencies (360 degree eval or similar)
2) Pick strengths to build, weaknesses to fix or a combination depending on the doctrine you follow,
3) Do the work.

It’s good, but is it enough?  Nick Petrie first raised this question in his paper, Future trends in Leadership Development. Here, he proposed that competencies are a form of ‘horizontal’ development. Horizontal development is fine, but in a modern highly complex working environment we need more vertical development. That is building capacities as well as capabilities. Competencies look back at what used to work and may not be a good predictor for what is coming next. Capacities build your ability to deal with increasingly complex and unpredictable environments.

Enter experiences. At the heart of vertical development or capacity building, are experiences. We grow and develop when we need to, when faced by something our current ways of operating can’t deal with, not when we simply choose to develop. Therefore facing novel and challenging experiences deliberately is a powerful way to develop. Given this lens why not make experiences the central part of a leadership development framework? Experience development frameworks. Could we identify core experiences that we expect people to have at different stages in their career? We could then ensure people have the opportunity to have these experiences in a deliberate thoughtful way, getting feedback and reflecting on the results they got. Wow, we could even make certain experiences a prerequisite for certain jobs. We could create a standard for certain jobs regardless of company. Your experience inventory follows you around!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this

Carl

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