(Originally published at Examiner.com)
Have you wondered in spite of your best knowledge and skills you do not make a cut into front line leaders? Maybe along the way you started doubting your competence. And you probably started thinking that you need to go for a leadership course. Hold on for a while on your decision. You may not lack leadership. Research has proven that there are some basic factors that may be hampering your competence to get known to the world.
If you have faced a struggle in proving your competence to your management or to your stakeholders, let me share with you some simple tips from research.
1. Get competitive edge by expanding your strategic knowledge
When I was young, I was quite curious about driving cars several years back. I gathered quite a bit of information about different models, its features and how different mechanical system operate together to drive a car. Several times I imagined how fuel is getting ignited and how it is generating thrust and then started relating it with pressing of pedal.
What I was doing was gathering knowledge.
When you learn ‘something’ new whether it is a new fact or a new skill, focus on acquiring comprehensive knowledge about that ‘something’. Comprehensive knowledge comprises of three types of knowledge – factual, conceptual, procedural and strategic. These different knowledge types are acquired through the processes like understanding, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating.
When you learn a new thing, you start knowing some facts about it (factual knowledge), as you unravel new relationship how things are organized (conceptual knowledge), you get to understand how to apply knowledge or do certain things (procedure knowledge). The real learning is how to use different strategies to make the most of your knowledge (strategic knowledge).
What it means to you?
Research shows that highly successful leaders have highly developed situational and strategic knowledge. Strategic knowledge is also called knowing about knowledge which is very important for you to develop because this enables you to monitor your learning and able to use different strategies to use knowledge and approach different situations using different strategies.
2. Acquire & perfect your skills
Skill generally refers to something you can do which is verifiable or demonstrable. As years go by, I got first opportunity to drive. The moment I took the wheel and pressed the pedal, I exactly could relate what it is like pressing the pedal to accelerate the car. I was able to connect my conceptual and factual knowledge was getting connected with procedural knowledge during this practical experience. However, I needed some practice on having a feel on how much pressure on the pedal means how much speed and then how other controls need to be coordinated timely.
The skills are most commonly always considered to something physical or motor related. That’s not completely true. Even the ‘evaluating’ and ‘thinking’ is a skill since it requires practice. While I was driving, I was also evaluating the speed and deciding when to press the brake. This was kicking my higher order thinking even though I was learning the skill.
What it means to you?
Skill acquisition comes with several different approaches to skills. From a user perspective it is commonly believed that skills can be acquired by either or combination of various modes like observing vs. doing vs. feeling vs. thinking. How do you perfect the skill? Well, that comes with practice. Researchers emphasize deliberate practice to excel a skill. By doing it again and again, it builds confidence.
However, note that confidence does NOT mean competence. So even if you have mastered a skill, don’t overrate your confidence as competence yet.
3. Differentiate yourself from crowd with your abilities
Let me give you an equation.
KNOWLEDGE + SKILLS = ABILITIES
In simpler words abilities means: You “can” do it. You have been equipped to do it, but we are yet to see the disposition how effectively you do it.”
For a while, this might contradict the way you have learned to use this term. You might be using this interchangeably to mean several other things. Let me see if I can elaborate with same example. As I started driving and started exerting my knowledge at appropriate points, I started making decisions based on speed, distance, traffic, road conditions and other factors. Demonstrating the driving skill required me to apply some knowledge and concepts like friction and distance before I can stop the car. As I become better at this, someone commented ‘now you are “able” to drive’.
Yes. That’s what the ability means. In world of reality ability refers to total sum of Knowledge and Skill.
What it means to you?
“You are not yet there.” Don’t you hear that very often from your colleagues and managers when you just recently attended a training course and have not quite yet put the learning into action yet?
In order to be known for your abilities, you need to make sure you integrate knowledge and skills very well. While you are learning a new skill, you will need to be cautious about how well-rounded and comprehensive knowledge you are acquiring about this skill.
Remember to focus on strategic knowledge if you need to stay out of crowd of people having same kind of skills. That’s why “abilities” differentiate people even though they may have ‘supposedly’ acquire similar kind of knowledge and skill from a training course.
4. Be ahead of the race by developing a winning attitude
As I was ‘able’ to drive car, I still needed to exert several discretion like whether or not to overtake, whether or not to cross speed limits, whether or not to slow down to pedestrians, whether or not to run car at steady speed to maintain its systems, among several others even in control environment or simpler situations like mock-up circuit and relatively less crowded roads. As I became good I developed certain method or technique of my own. I tested my newly found methods in certain situations and that gave me confidence that I could probably handle unforeseen situations as well.
What I was developing was ‘attitude’. Remember attitude may mean several things including approach and behavior and so forth. Attitude in professional world means disposition which is represented by attributes like attitude, behavior, approach, methods, techniques and sometimes mind-set.
Let me give you one example.
If you are a manager, you may have a great employee with great abilities but you are always unhappy with the way he does the things. Looks familiar?
Let’s take another example that you have two employees exactly equal in knowledge and skills (I refer this as abilities). In the crucial time at crucial customer when things are at stake who is the one you can send right away without hesitation? You got it right – The ONE WITH OUTSTANDING ATTITUDE.
If you are hiring someone, you probably will hire him for attitude with the confidence that you can train him for skills. That’s how important attitude is.
What it means to you?
Attitude is an important component which defines how you do something and how you do it differently.
5. Win others’ confidence by demonstrating competence
Now let me give you another equation. This is something you will encounter more often in your work place.
ABILITIES + ATTITUDE = COMPETENCE
In simpler terms, Competence means: you “can” do it!! You have “right disposition” to do it!! Given right opportunity you should be able to do it. However, you have not proved it yet in a real-life situation.
Let me elaborate it.
Dreyfus (1986) defines competence as a stage in the journey to Mastery. Competence stage is characterized by following: With experience learner begins to recognize more and more context-free and situational elements. At this point learner is able to organize the situation and then concentrate on important elements. He is able to assess the situation, set the goal and then choose a best course of action. He may or may not apply rules. He may or may not be successful but that constitute an important element of future expertise.
In summary, acquiring competence in something may mean that you might be ready to go into real-life situation. Remember:
- By mastering your skills you gained confidence as you do something several times. You need to be good in something in order to exert your leadership.
- By integrating knowledge and skills nicely, you differentiate yourself. This is key differentiator for the leaders. They have learned the art of integrating knowledge and skills into one.
- By displaying a winning correct attitude, you differentiate yourself. Attitude plays a very important role how your abilities get noticed as competence and make other believe in your abilities. Great attitude makes the great leaders.
- And with correct mixture of right abilities with right attitude, you demonstrate your competence. That’s how others build confidence in you that you “CAN DO”! Once you build other’s confidence on your competence, you automatically moves into leadership zone where other people start following you.
In conclusions, if you want to be a great leader, you just have to integrate your knowledge and skills in a way people can see it as abilities and then you need to use a winning attitude that transforms these abilities into a visible competence everyone can develop confidence upon.