Leaders Know Their Stuff


Competence is a quality that followers look for in leaders. Together with trustworthiness, competence forms the foundation of leadership.

Are you competent to lead?

Competence is an important quality followers look for in leaders. It refers to expertise or “knowing thy stuff.”  Together with trustworthiness it forms the foundation of leadership.

It is impossible to possess expertise in every area of your business. However, you will be considered competent by your followers if you can demonstrate it in these areas:

  • your particular functional expertise or industry experience
  • your management of things
  • your direction of people.


There are three reasons competence in your functional and industry experience is important. Your expertise builds a successful track record. In turn this achievement leads to a worthy reputation. Finally you gain personal contacts from your reputation that you can call on in the future.


Three behaviors make up the management of things. They are planning, organizing and controlling. Planning includes forecasting for the future, establishing specific goals, detailing steps, timetables and budgets and allocating the necessary resources.

Organizing involves designing a structure for the organization and delegating work to the various positions. It also entails establishing roles and relationships as well as creating methods and systems for implementation.

Controlling pertains to establishing expected performance in terms of standards to be met and measurements to be used. This includes following up and asking the key question, “What is due, by when and for how much?


Finally, competence involves recruiting and instructing people. Recruiting people who fit your organization and the position you are trying to fill requires defining the job, describing the type of person who would fit the job and finding and hiring potential candidates.

When you define the job, you have to look at the results, responsibilities, duties and authority required. Then you have to think of a person with the interests, experience, skills, personality and values to pull it off. Next you have to find potential candidates through personal referrals, advertising, and, possibly, professional recruiters. The last step is determining which candidate is the right one through interviews, references and appropriate testing.

Competent leaders also instruct people well by tailoring communication, rewards and the work environment to appeal to what is most important to them.  They communicate clearly and give feedback as needed.

As you grow in your competence as a leader, practice these behaviors:

  • Always do the best you can do.
  • Always be teachable.
  • Always surround yourself with wise counselors and people who inspire and challenge you.
  • Never fake it.
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