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Leadership Competencies: What You Need to Know for Applying to Mid- and Senior-Level Roles

Employers hiring at mid- and senior levels prioritize skills that go beyond strong technical expertise. They place a high value on leadership competencies. These are competencies such as action orientation, dealing with ambiguity, approachability, building effective teams, business acumen, career ambition, caring about direct reports, and many others. They are clusters of skills that are essential for achieving outcomes in any organization. The higher the pay level, the more important these skills are. At the mid- and senior levels, it’s about more than what you are able to do as an individual contributor or subject-matter expert; it’s about, what can you do as a team or group or division? And organizations hire with these leadership competencies in mind. “Having a competency-based leadership hiring process helps organizations structure their hiring process in a way that enables selection of leaders that possess skills and abilities that can help them succeed in a given leadership role,” writes Romila Kanchan with the HR-focused Mercer | Mettl blog. Nearly 60% of companies -- and usually large organizations -- have a leadership competency framework they use as part of hiring. If a mid- or senior-level role is on your radar, you’ll need to identify your leadership competencies and how they connect with those desired by the organizations you’d like to work with. A few core questions to ask yourself, considering each particular job:

  • Which leadership competencies are key for this role? For this organization?

  • Where are you strong on the list of competencies?

A longer-term view can also be valuable, and I often work on these two questions with individual coaching clients.

  • Where are there gaps in your leadership competencies? How can you bridge those gaps through new projects or experiences?

  • How can you strengthen any “second-tier” leadership competencies you have -- especially those that are important for moving into a mid- or senior-level role?

Identifying Your Leadership Competencies There are a few ways you can identify your core leadership competencies.

  1. Take an assessment like the Leadership Architect/Lominger tool from Korn/Ferry -- ask me if you’re interested in taking this assessment. The assessment provides a snapshot that identifies and ranks your leadership competencies, and there is value in having an external report of this kind. Many companies use this tool with team members as part of their leadership development programs. Aspiring and current leaders and managers benefit from doing this assessment on their own too.

  2. You could assess your experience using a list of leadership competencies -- there are many available, and even better if you can locate the competencies that the organization you’re applying to has established. There also are industry-based frameworks available that provide general guidelines. ” For example, here’s a leadership competency framework for Energy Project/Program Management, from a study by the National Science Foundation on “Skill Profiles for Energy Management Occupations” (2014):

If you’re doing a self-assessment, assess yourself honestly on a five-point scale from “do not have” to “expert” -- if you rate yourself high on all competencies, go back a second time to review the list. Use the question, “How would the best supervisor I’ve ever had rank me on this?” The last step is to incorporate these leadership competencies into your career plan, resume, career search strategy, and branding, as well as into the interviewing process. Do you know what you need to be doing -- today and over the next year -- to move up in your Green Career? I’m a trusted career advisor, with extensive experience working with entry-level, mid-level managers, and senior executives, and who knows the Green industry. Contact me, Beth Offenbacker, Ph.D., at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our one-on-one Green Career Coaching services or our Green Career workshops are right for you.

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