To define leadership is to define the competencies which make a leader successful.

Leadership competencies are the intricate elements which take the leadership position and characterise what is needed for a type of communal triumph.

Leadership without Competencies

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”

Lao Tzu

This quote is a bit contradictory.

Surely if a leader leads, then the people know that they have a leader?

Why and how would they believe they achieved their goal themselves if they were lead?

How is it a competency to relinquish your claim on an achievement, Is that a competency?


To lead is to actualise a common goal by using multiple resources, particularly human resources to achieve your result.

It is easier to discuss leadership without delving into the competencies within, because of the vast categories of leadership, naming the most commonly known styles such as:

  • servant,
  • transformational,
  • transactional,
  • autocratic, and
  • laissez-faire

Leadership Competencies

Leadership competencies refers to the knowledge, skills, experience, abilities and behaviours required to lead. To find out more about competencies in the workplace, refer to SA Business Coaches’ Blog on Competence Refined for Executives published in February 2021. This definition of competence is taken from Dr Elana Siew’s book, Competence Refined, available on

To list the leadership competencies is exhaustive beyond reason and the environment, purpose and culture of the leadership environment all need to be considered.

Leadership Competencies Research

The following Harvard Business Review article asked 195 global leaders to rate 74 leadership competencies. 10 competencies emerged on top, and these are categorised into the following 5 themes:

  • Strong Ethics and Safety
  • Self-Organising
  • Efficient Learning
  • Nurtures Growth
  • Connections and Belonging

The percentages within each theme are shown in the diagram below:

Read the article: The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World.

Leadership competencies is a lifelong pursuit which grows steadily as each level of competence is mastered. Leadership is so dynamic and evident in every aspect of our lives that we often are not conscious of its presence.

This is what makes a leader competent: The ability to lead without taking the glory and without expecting recognition. Lao Tzu showed an insight not just into leadership, also into the core competencies that make a leader great.