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Is capability the missing piece to success?

There are numerous articles that speak about the importance of leadership development, especially during times of change. While leadership is not the sole contributor to successful change, it is a very important component for many reasons. I recently read an article by Jessica Bronzert in Forbes, who discusses the importance of leadership development and the need to look at this beyond competency (what) to capability (how).

Becoming a leader

The path to becoming a leader typically goes like this – an individual is promoted to a leadership position because of tenure, skills or due to a simple need to fill a role. Once a leader, the next step involves the company investing in leadership development. As Bronzert mentions in her article, this includes things like how to have difficult conversations, time management and delegation. All of these are incredibly important, however I would agree with Bronzert that the missing piece is definitely the focus on developing leadership capabilities in addition to competences.

From competency to capability

Change is happening at a rapid pace and businesses need to keep up to remain relevant. Leaders play a critical role in ensuring a company is successful for the long-term, and yet the training required for them to do this well is not evolving fast enough to keep pace with the influx of changes coming at them.

That’s why organizations need to expand their leadership development to include capability.

Capability is the power or ability to do something.

The role of a leader during change

Change is hard and employees will be looking to their leaders to guide them through this. Transparency, clear and timely communications, goes a long way but it’s no longer enough. The magnitude of the changes taking place today are calling for much more from leadership.

Leaders have a huge responsibility to lead their people through change but they must not forget about the importance of focusing on their own abilities to drive change. Having the skills and knowledge are key, but it’s equally as important as ensuring they are upskilling themselves to evolve with these changes. For example, if your company is implementing an new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, leaders need to not only understand how the system works, but they also need to make sure they know how to use the system so that they can determine how this impacts their people and how it will improve the way they work today.

In addition to being walked through the ERP system, leaders should be taking the initiative to stay up to date on current business trends by reading reports or articles on industry disrupters, or by completing their own research. Finally, another great way to build capability includes training. This can be done in traditional post-secondary environments, networking events, through e-learning or company training.

The next step is to make sure leaders have the ability to build capability with their people too. This means, they need to be able to upskill their people to adapt to these changes. Implementing new technology is scary to many, but the good news is people can and want to learn how to use technology so that they can enjoy their jobs, as well as, develop and flourish in their roles in this new environment. This isn’t an easy task, but a great way to gain some momentum is for leaders to take a close look at each individual on their team and ask:

  1. What are their strengths?

  2. What are their goals and how can I help them reach their goals?

  3. What opportunities are available to help them develop?

  4. How does this change benefit them?

  5. What sort of impacts does this change have on their roles?

It’s true. Technology does make some roles redundant, but it also creates a flurry of opportunities for new roles. Change management consultants are a great example of the opportunity’s technology creates. With that said, leaders must be confident in their ability to lead their people through change by upskilling and presenting them with opportunities for growth either in their current roles or new roles that are based on current business needs.

I’m sure you agree that leaders are critical in leading their people and businesses through change. The rapid pace and size of change leaves little room for leaders to rest on their laurels. Now is the time for leaders to embrace change by taking charge of their own development and focusing beyond competency to include capability for themselves and for their people.



Gregory Roth Managing Partner Toronto



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