The Skills Model, a recent version of the skills approach to leadership is comprised of three components: individual attributes, competencies, and leadership outcomes (PSU, 2014). Individual attributes build off of traits or intrinsic qualities one is born with, as building blocks to learning effective leadership skills. Competencies, unlike individual attributes, are actual learned skills. These competencies are made up of problem solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge (Northouse, 2013, p.48). These learned competencies allow for effective leadership through constructing and applying solutions, teamwork, understanding human behaviors, and ability to define and resolve complex organizational behaviors (Northouse, 2013, p.51). Leadership outcomes, the last component of the Skills Model, involves effective problem solving by providing unique and quality solutions, and performance-how well a leader performs their given duties (Northouse, 2013, p.55).
There are two other components to the Skills Model that support overall leadership performance: career experiences and environmental influences. Career experiences have a significant impact on a leader’s characteristics and competencies (Northouse, 2013, p.54). Career experiences advance one’s job growth and skill building necessary for effective leadership. But how does that relate to some of us who are in school, and have very little career experiences to help develop a strong leadership skill set? The problem with this part of the theory is the word “career” limits our thinking regarding these useful experiences that help build our leadership skills. These so called “experiences” should not be limited to a “career environment.” In fact, these experiences can happen in our everyday lives.
Drew Dudley, a leadership educator from Toronto, gives a great talk on TEDx about everyday leadership. He asks us to purge the notion that calling oneself a “leader” is arrogant or cocky. Dudley believes we should all celebrate the amazing leadership moments we experience in everyday life. He tells a story about a moment where he positively impacted a young girl’s life, through a small action. He had given her motivation and courage to do something significant with her life. This small act of leadership did not happen “on the job” and she was not one of his employees. This was a “career experience” of some sort, which no doubt, enhanced his motivation and intellectual ability. It helped Dudley strengthen his motivational and social judgment skills- both an individual attribute and competency, two major components of the Skills Model.
Benefits of the Skills approach are its focus on developing leaders, it’s accessibility to those who want to learn, and it’s applicability to different leadership situations (PSU, 2014, p.7). To enhance and build on these strengths, we need to modernize the definition of “career experiences” to include those leadership moments in our daily lives that help improve our leadership skills and knowledge over time. Students who have never worked before should not wait to have a job title in order to participate in these “career experiences.” They can develop leadership skills in everyday life- problem solving, motivating, and performing; using each scenario or experience to help develop these leadership skills further.
Written by: Mai Dolinh
Dudley, Drew. (2010, September). Everyday Leadership [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership?language=en#t-355238
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
PSU WC. (2014). PSYCH 485: Lesson 4, Skills Approach. Retrieved August 31st, 2014 from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa14/psych485/001/content/04_lesson/05