Sixteen Strength Competencies for Exceptional Leadership

How To Be Exceptional:
Drive Leadership
Success By Magnifying
Your Strengths
According to studies conducted or reviewed in the book How To Be Exceptional (on Amazon #ad), by the folks at Zenger-Folkman, good leadership is key to organizational success.  Good leaders who have certain strengths can increase those strengths to become great leaders.  And poor leaders with weaknesses should focus on building their strengths to get better or focus on fixing a single fatal flaw (weakness that keeps them from being successful).  Movement towards great leadership can improve an individual’s career potential while helping their current organization.  Their studies show that leaders (without a fatal flaw) who focus on building their strengths rather than eliminating weaknesses have 3X the improvement of those who focus primarily on overcoming a weakness. Why is this important for building greater leadership?  Great leaders increase: profits and sales, customer satisfaction, both employee engagement and development. 

The author’s suggest 360-degree feedback as a way to find strengths and weaknesses because this gets feedback from subordinates, peers, and superiors.  It will give the leader a more rounded image of their self since most are not as self-aware as they tend to believe.  An interesting result of one study was that leaders who focus on using their strengths (once known and understood) create a detailed development plan and are more likely to stick to it and improve.  Whereas leaders focusing on weakness tend to create a high-level plan and dread working on it.

In chapter 6, 16 leadership competencies are presented under 5 categories.  These are summarized below using and adaptation of the table presented in the book with the items they suggest as the top 5 noted in rank order.  To see details on each of the 16, visit the Zenger-Folman company blog post series The 16 Days of Competencies.  To see 5 competency companions, visit Leaders Look to Improve People Skills in Training magazine.

Focus on Results

Leading Change


Interpersonal Skills

Personal Capability

Drives for results


#3 -
Establishes stretch goals


Takes initiative

#4 -
Develops strategic perspective


Champions change


Connects the group to the outside world


Displays integrity and honesty

#2 - Communicates powerfully and prolifically


#1 -
Inspires and motivates others to high performance


Builds relationships


Develop others


Engages in collaboration and teamwork

Has technical/

professional expertise


#5 -
Solves problems and analyzes issues




Practices self-development

For more details on the competencies and how to build them, read the book.  For a brief look at the competencies and leadership, see the slide show embedded within the Harvard Business Review article Making Yourself Indispensable.

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