In His Own Image: How Competency Models Compel Uniformity


Print | No Comments | Share/Save

Expert Perspective by Grahall’s OmniMedia Editorial Board

Creating, promoting and nurturing diversity in the workplace has long been a focus of human resources efforts.  Whether its religion, race, gender, cultural or lifestyle differences, we agree that all enhance the work environment.   Why then do performance review, talent management review and leadership competency models inevitably reflect only the qualities, traits and characteristic of the current leaders? 

In her article published in MSN (On the Job, Nice Guys May Finish Last), Christine M. Riordan, Ph.D. writes that the qualities of being “nurturing, sympathetic and supportive”… impede management potential. Agreeability? Research indicated it was negatively related to salary, occupational status, involvement in work and whether an individual stood out as a leader.”

But is it true that possessing these traits really means that you cannot “…manage controversial issues as well as provide constructive (and not always positive) feedback”?  Or perhaps these are traits that are perceived by the developers of “critical competencies” to be ineffectual simply because they are not personality traits observed in current senior leaders?  

Change is and has been inevitable in business. The economic downturn has proven that companies who are nimble, flexible and creative are better positioned to exploit change to their benefit, rather than be ravaged by it. 

Where competency models and the process by which they are evaluated lack objectivity, are stagnant or simply reinforce the status quo, they can do a serious disservice to any company.   Different behaviors and tactics can define similar competencies. As the old saying goes, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Competencies such as “Managerial Courage” or “Confronting Problem Performance” can be characterized by differing behavioral styles that achieve the same desired results. 

That being said, if competency models, performance reviews, succession planning models, etc. are not embraced and followed by leadership (aka, the CEO) they will simply be glaring examples of a business that professes one set of values and rewards another. People will mimic the values and style of the leader much more than they will adhere to a set of stated objectives…by which no one lives!

Any company who has not taken a long and hard look at the competency models and full range of behavioral descriptors for their talent review processes are likely to be behind the curve. Recognizing and assessing important and unique talents and capabilities in potential leaders may be difficult for those whose personal and leadership styles provided the basis for existing competency models.  But, competitive advantage does not come from leaving unrecognized leadership talent on the table.

Don’t delay.  Have Grahall review your competency models and talent management approach today.

Contact Joe Davidson at

Contact William Byrnes at

Post a Comment