The 7 essential leadership competencies


Consider the jazz maestro who steps onto a dimly lit stage, trumpet in hand.  He doesn’t dictate every note to his ensemble but casts an atmosphere where music can come alive.  He sets the mood and tempo, then steps back to let each musician contribute their brilliance.  This approach bears a striking resemblance to exceptional leadership

Ambition may get your foot in the door; however, to grow and sustain your leadership,  you must commit to developing the skillful means necessary to empower groups of people. 

This blog is designed to support you on that journey.

Vision and Strategic Thinking

A robust vision is like the first notes of a jazz composition—it sets the tone but doesn’t prescribe the entirety of the song.  Leaders with vision provide an overture, a general feeling or direction that lights the path forward.  It’s a sense of the extraordinary, made palpable.  This overarching vision should be the backbone of every project, conversation, and strategy, serving as an inviting arena for innovation.  Without a shared vision, your projects and commitments become a laundry list of activities.

The vision must be communicated compellingly so that team members not only understand it intellectually but also feel it viscerally.  By making the vision both tangible and inspiring, you’ll activate the collective imagination of your team, turning them into co-creators of this shared future.

 Effective Communication

The rhythm of communication in leadership is a dance between speaking and listening.  You speak and then pause.  When a musician plays, silence is as crucial as sound; the space allows notes to resonate.  So, it is with effective communication: Leaders must know when to lean into the conversation and step back, allowing room for others to contribute.

In team settings, your role isn’t just expressing your thoughts as if you are delivering a monologue but facilitating an environment where every voice can be heard.  This leads to richer ideas and a more nuanced understanding of complex issues.  Communicating occurs like a dance where the conversations flow until all is said and created.

Adaptability and Resilience

The business landscape is ever-changing.  Therefore, adaptability and resilience are critical in making the right choices in a high-stakes game.  It is the capacity to read and respond to this ever-moving environment.  It’s about recognizing that course correction is inevitable and often desirable, no matter how detailed your initial plan is.  

Being adaptable is being open to new rhythms, new themes, and new styles, thereby co-creating a continuously evolving plan that is fresh and relevant.

Adaptability is only possible with a foundation of resilience.  Maya Angelou once said, “I can be changed by what happens to me.  But I refuse to be reduced by it.” Resilience is embracing all circumstances without surrendering your integrity, vision, and resolve.

 Empowerment and Delegation

The best jazz compositions are those where every instrument gets a solo—a moment to shine.  Similarly, great leaders create moments of empowerment for their team members.  This means you must know your team and the unique contribution of each member.  It’s about entrusting individuals with meaningful roles that allow them to express their unique strengths.  

Mastering delegation involves creating new opportunities for achievement and growth for each team member.  And just like the jazz ensemble that thrives on diverse instruments, your team becomes more potent when each member knows they are valued and capable.

Transforming Problems

One of the core competencies of jazz is improvisation.  Not all musical improvisations go smoothly, but a seasoned musician can transform a stray note into an unexpected brilliance.

Problem-solving in leadership follows the same principle.  Leaders must develop the capacity to see problems from a different lens.  First, they suspend all judgment until the source of the problem is pinpointed.  Then, the flaw or limitation is probed for its true potentiality.  When approached with creativity and resilience, they become real opportunities.  It’s no longer about getting rid of the problem; it is discovering what adds enduring value to the team and the project.

 Emotional Intelligence

A leader is much like an orchestra conductor, sensing the ensemble’s mood and adjusting the pace and intensity of the performance accordingly.  Emotional intelligence is the skill that enables you to gauge these unspoken dynamics.  This isn’t just about empathy; it’s also about self-awareness.  Knowing how your emotional state impacts those around you can explain when to push forward and ease back, allowing for a more harmonious collective experience.

 Growth and Development

Finally, invest in your future with a plan for continual growth.  The path to becoming obsolete is believing that you have something handled.  Continual learning expands capacities and opens doors to new opportunities.  This is not merely an endless quest for self-improvement but dedication to a larger ensemble—the team, the organization, the community.  As you grow, you elevate those around you, setting the stage for more complex, impactful achievements in the future.


Once you have mastered the essential leadership competencies, you can focus on developing more advanced skills that align with your specific goals and objectives.  These may include strategic planning, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and stakeholder management.  You may also want to develop industry-specific knowledge and technical skills to help you stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changing trends.  Ultimately, the possibilities for growth and development as a leader are endless, and the key is to remain open-minded, curious, and committed to lifelong learning.

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