Leadership Competencies, Theories, and Models

Introduction: Leadership Competencies

Today, society, its politics, economy, ideology and culture require a new type of leaders who interact optimally with people, possessing leadership qualities, capable of analysis, motivation, strategic thinking, creativity and efficiency. However, finding and employing competent professionals remains an urgent problem. Currently, many organizations operating in a constantly changing environment lack talented and well-trained leaders at all levels of management.

Improving the efficiency of the workforce is possible on the basis of labor motivation and self-organization of the leader, taking into account the manifestations of culture in the selection and evaluation of personnel, organizational aspects of leadership in management, as well as the responsibility of the leader. Becoming a leader is a complex, painstaking and multifaceted process. In the face of a shortage of well-trained leadership leaders, an organization can operate in various directions:

  • Direct all efforts to search for specialists from outside, which is always difficult and costly (Dessler, 2019);
  • Bet on talented and highly qualified employees, growing and educating employees-leaders in environment.

A correct forecast of market trends allows to develop strategies, anticipate possible barriers to success and quickly find ways to overcome them. It is very important to be able to mobilize all resources in cases of difficulties and failures, clearly prioritize, analyze various alternatives and find the best solutions. Business efficiency is primarily determined by the managerial competence of managers (Dessler, 2019). Qualified management is carried out on the basis of knowledge gained during training and practical experience. The basis of management is knowledge, useful experience of other companies, the manager’s own experience, proven tools and skills in using them. Practical knowledge in management is of more value than theoretical; useful experience is scrupulously studied and passed on, and a well-designed tool for solving problems is much more useful than scientific theories. Based on the understanding of the essence of management, it can be said that the most sought-after managerial competencies of a top manager are:

  1. Strategic thinking (systematic, systematic, the ability to foresee the “picture” – the result).
  2. Knowledge of the basic principles of marketing to manage the company’s position in the market.
  3. Ability to manage financial flows, incl. use mechanisms for investing in new projects.
  4. Knowledge of production and operations (purchasing, logistics, warehousing).
  5. Understanding the laws of the market, the ability to organize marketing and sales processes.
  6. Ability to develop new products or services.
  7. Understanding of information technologies and approaches to process automation.
  8. Implementation of business administration (Dessler, 2019).
  9. Knowledge of relevant legislation governing business.
  10. Personnel management skills
  11. Ensuring security – commercial, informational, economic, personnel.
  12. Maintaining public relations (formation of the company’s reputation and image in society, in the business community or in the market – to choose from).

At the same time, any leader performs a certain number of administrative functions, such as:

  • Collection and analysis of information;
  • Making decisions;
  • Planning;
  • Organization;
  • Coordination;
  • Control;
  • Motivation;
  • Communications.

An effective manager should be an organizer, a comrade, a mentor, an expert in setting goals, a leader, and a person who knows how to listen to others. He must understand well the capabilities of his direct subordinates, their abilities to perform the specific work assigned to them. The manager must know the principles of interaction between the heads of departments and employees within the company, develop teamwork in order to maintain the unity and correct functioning of the company (Dessler, 2019). It is impossible to combine the variety of skills and qualities of a top manager listed above in one person, but it is possible to clearly define the list of requirements for a specific position of a manager, taking into account the specifics of the industry, the features of the management system and the corporate culture of a particular company and its development goals.

The competency method is becoming more and more popular in dynamically developing companies, as it involves the use of a single language in business processes. This is an efficient way to describe a job since most of the jobs can be described using 10-12 individual competencies (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). For example, the international construction corporation “Tarmak” uses 10 competencies, and the management model of the company “Xerox” includes 32 competencies. In a sense, the number of competencies used in a particular model does not matter, it depends on the characteristics of the industry, the specifics of the company, the management system, corporate culture. The number of competencies should be convenient for conducting managerial work and for evaluating the performance of the manager.

Theories and Models of Leadership

The theory of leadership qualities, which tried to establish what qualities help a person become a leader, emphasized mainly the positional aspect. The diversity and inconsistency of the qualities found in famous leaders of the past called into question the very methodical approach to the study of leadership, although works in this direction appeared in the recent past (Dessler, 2019). A breakthrough in the study of leadership is traditionally considered a shift in the attention of researchers from the qualities of a leader to his behavior (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). A series of works by scientists from the University of Michigan, Ohio State University and, finally, R. Blake and J. Mouton led to the formation of a “two-dimensional” approach to the analysis of leader behavior, in which attention to the result of activity, on the one hand, and to people and relations between them, on the other.

The behavioral approach focused more on the process aspect of leadership. Quite sophisticated training programs have been developed on the basis of the Blake-Mouton “management grid” model. However, it soon became clear that, firstly, two parameters are clearly not enough to describe such a complex phenomenon as leadership (Dessler, 2019). Secondly, the use of the “management grid” – the most advanced theoretical construct in this direction – inevitably suggests the existence of “best” leadership style, which is doubtful even from the point of view of common sense.

The analysis of the shortcomings of theories based only on the consideration of the behavior of the leader gave rise to a new direction of research, called the situational one. Almost all authors of situational models followed the same path: they chose the main factor describing the situation of interaction between the leader and the followers, and on this basis they proposed a range of styles of leadership behavior that is optimal for various situations. The pioneering work was F. Fiedler, in which he proposed several new ideas. The first was that the leadership style reflects the leader’s motivation, while the specific forms of his behavior depend on situational factors, and this ultimately determines the leader’s effectiveness (Dessler, 2019). Fiedler’s work shows elements of the theory of leadership qualities; he introduced a fundamentally new characteristic of a leader, which can be conditionally called tolerance for the least preferred employees.

Somewhat later, the model of P. Hersey and C. Blanchard was proposed, where the main situational factor was the so-called “maturity” of the followers, which, in turn, was presented as a certain composition of their readiness, desire to do work and self-confidence. Based on the Hersey-Blanchard model, a variety of leadership trainings are conducted in modern days. However, the concept of “leadership style” does not fully characterize all the activities that a leader must carry out (Dessler, 2019). An example of such an activity is decision making, as part of the analysis of styles, this issue is solved unambiguously: if a participatory style was chosen, then it is necessary to involve the followers in the development and decision-making process (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). But still it is obvious that in certain cases the leader, regardless of the dominant style, must make decisions alone. This circumstance illustrates the incompleteness of the “style” approach to leadership.

It is not surprising, therefore, that V. Vroom and F. Yetton developed an approach that involves the choice of a decision-making method by the leader depending on the information available, the significance of the decision, and the circle of interested parties. This approach is essentially fundamentally process-based, since it takes into account such a consequence of the decision taken as adherence to it by the followers (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). The rise of interest in group dynamics and team building in the early 1970s led researchers of leadership to a new problem: how to take into account the differences in the relationship between the leader and different followers. The greatest contribution to the development of this direction was made by J.Gren, who, along with his colleagues, developed the exchange theory, which states that the leader forms two types of relationships with his followers.

The first type of relationship involves close contacts, strong support from the leader, a high level of trust; such relationships are established with members of so-called “inner groups”. The second type of relationship is characterized by greater detachment, less frequent contacts, less support; they are established with members of “outgroups” (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). Which of the groups a follower will fall into is determined at an early stage of his interactions with the leader. Around the same time, two more concepts were introduced: transactional and transformational (transformative) leadership. These concepts described the special relationship between the leader and the followers. In the first case, an exchange is assumed between them, and in the second, a strong moral impact on the follower, transforming his personality (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). The term “transformative leadership” was subsequently used to describe the impact of a leader on an organization.

Finally, the theory of cognitive resources, described by F. Fiedler and J. Garcia, can be attributed to the classical ones somewhat conditionally. The two most important concepts of the theory are intelligence and leader experience. The theory argues that the leader’s intellectual resources can contribute to the effective operation of the group, but only under certain conditions, in particular if it follows the leader’s directives. Stress is an important factor influencing the efficiency of using the leader’s intellect (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). At a low level of stress, intellectual potential comes to the fore, at a high level, experience. Excessive reliance on experience under mild stress can adversely affect group performance. In fact, this theory, which pays more attention than the previous ones, to the personality of the leader, was the link between classical approaches to leadership and modern studies that focus on the person.

Organizational Culture

Becoming a member of the organization, each worker gradually learns its rules and norms of behavior, as well as ideals, which can later become the value and life guidelines of the individual. Undoubtedly, the culture of the organization, within which socialization and personality formation continues, bears a huge responsibility for the future fate of its members. All this not only distinguishes one organization from another, but also significantly determines the success of the functioning and survival of the organization in the long term (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). Organizational culture is not so clearly manifested on the surface, it is difficult to “feel” it. From point of view, that an organization has a “soul”, then this “soul” is the organizational culture, and people are the carriers of organizational culture.

However, in organizations with a well-established organizational culture, it seems to be separated from people and becomes an attribute of the organization, a part of it that has an active influence on the members of the organization, modifying their behavior in accordance with the norms and values that form its basis. Since culture plays a very important role in the life of an organization, it should be the subject of close attention from management. Management not only corresponds to the organizational culture and is highly dependent on it, but can, in turn, influence the formation and development of organizational culture (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). Progressive leaders view their organization’s culture as a powerful strategic tool to orient all departments and individuals towards common goals, mobilize employee initiative, build loyalty, and facilitate communication.

The structure of the culture of production includes the culture of working conditions and production, the culture of the means of labor and the labor process, the culture of management and interpersonal relations in the work team, the culture of the workers themselves. It is necessary to consider each element in more detail:

  • The culture of working conditions is a set of objective conditions and subjective factors that determine human behavior in the process of production activity. This part of the production culture includes characteristics and indicators of sanitary-hygienic, psycho-physiological, socio-psychological and aesthetic working conditions;
  • The culture of the means of labor and the labor process is characterized by such elements as the introduction of the latest achievements of science and technology into production, the level of mechanization and automation, the quality of equipment and tools, the rhythm and regularity of the enterprise, the level of logistics, the quality of products, the use of advanced methods labor, methods for evaluating the results of labor, ensuring discipline;
  • The culture of interpersonal relations (communications) in the work team is determined by the socio-psychological climate, the presence of a sense of collectivism, mutual assistance, the presence and sharing by all employees of the values ​​and beliefs of the company (Luisser and Hendon, 2019);
  • Management culture is determined by management methods, leadership style, humanism, individual approach, perception of personnel as the property of the company, professionalism of managers, including communicative competence, accepted methods of stimulation, increasing the level of job satisfaction;

It is legitimate to present the culture of an employee as a combination of moral culture and labor culture. Moral culture has an external component, which is manifested in human behavior, knowledge of etiquette, rules of conduct, good manners. The internal culture consists of the morality of his thinking, value orientations, beliefs and culture of feelings, the ability to empathically perceive the state of other people, to empathize (Iszatt-White and Saunders, 2020). The culture of work is determined based on the level of education and qualifications of the employee, his attitude to work, disciplined diligence, creativity in the workplace.

Coordination of All Aspects of the Business

The formation of a top manager as a management specialist begins with the acquisition of skills that are divided into two groups: hard skills and soft skills (similar to hardware and software in computers). Hard skills are “iron”, those skills that are necessary to do job at a high professional level. This is fundamental knowledge about the mechanisms of business functioning, understanding of the organization as an integral system, economics, marketing, finance, as well as production (professional) skills used in direct work. For a long time it was believed that the effectiveness of work depends on the level of development of these particular skills (Iszatt-White and Saunders, 2020). An important role is played by the diploma of academic education, the level of intelligence, the number of certificates of completion of specialized courses.

Many managers focus their attention on the development of hard skills: technical knowledge and skills. This is due to the fact that domestic managers really do not have enough quality knowledge in management and marketing, which has become possible to obtain in our country recently. Hard skills can be developed by obtaining additional academic education, in MBA programs and attending various seminars (Iszatt-White and Saunders, 2020). Hard skills training allows in a fairly short time to gain the knowledge necessary for a manager on business development management, strategic planning, operations, transformation modeling and organizational structure. Many discussions and interactive seminars are built into such programs, which allow learning to apply the acquired theoretical knowledge in the analysis of specific situations and in role-playing games (Iszatt-White and Saunders, 2020). Within the framework of hard skills training programs, one can exchange managerial experience among peers, learn how a particular problem or task is solved in other companies. Academic study programs are known to require more time and effort; for example, to get high-quality knowledge in marketing, it is not enough to attend a two-day seminar, specialist needs to get a higher or additional education lasting several months.

However, only professional knowledge of hard skills is not enough for successful work. The transition to the status of a senior manager is not limited to mastering only technical skills. In practice, managers often do not cope with their duties not because of lack of experience, but because of undeveloped soft skills (Iszatt-White and Saunders, 2020). A higher level of management requires the possession of more complex qualities, skills of interaction with people: the ability to communicate, speak in public, convince oneself to be right, manage one’s emotions and the emotions of others, and motivate. All this together makes up soft skills, which, in turn, require a deep personal restructuring from the leader.

The expected work of a manager at the top management level requires, first of all, diverse and multi-level communications, leadership qualities, the ability to form and develop a management team, and make decisions in conditions of uncertainty. The importance of these skills is due to the fact that successful managers communicate with other people up to 80% of their time (Hiriyappa, 2018, p. 64). The higher a person climbs the career ladder, the less technical skills matter, and the more important interpersonal skills become. Thus, it is the skills and level of knowledge of the manager that make it possible to most effectively combine numerous aspects of the business into a single functioning system.


Competencies are becoming a new name for performance efficiency, its cognitive guarantor. Competent employees turn out to be a new manifestation of the organization’s human potential, its new form, requiring new ways of measuring it. Competency-based management technologies turn out to be new tools for social orientation, which develops attention to other people as a necessary basis for activity in any field (Hiriyappa, 2018). This is the humanitarian pathos of the idea of competencies, its energy, which creates new impulses for the development of activities in all professional fields.

Today, society needs transformational leadership that reflects a new type of leader behavior – leadership focused on attention to subordinates. Therefore, when studying it, it is necessary to take into account the presence of constituent elements. The main aspect is a leader with certain leadership traits, abilities and goal-oriented capabilities (Luisser and Hendon, 2019). Next are his followers, with their qualities, the potential to realize their goals. Finally, the third factor is the tasks that interacting employees are trying to solve.

Employees, being managers in projects or organizations, have the potential to demonstrate and develop the leadership component of professional and personal competencies for professional growth and higher positions. After all, such a cadre, due to the specifics of its managerial activity, can prove itself by effectively organizing the work of subordinates and turning them into their followers. And this, ultimately, will lead not only to an increase in his personal authority, but also to the development of the efficiency of the entire corporation as a whole.


Dessler, G. (2019). Fundamentals of human resource management. Pearson Education.

Hiriyappa, B. (2018). Development of leadership skills. PublishDrive.

Iszatt-White, M., and Saunders, C. (2020). Leadership. Oxford University Press.

Luisser, R. N., and Hendon, J. R. (2019). Fundamentals of human resource management. SAGE Publications.

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