The Three Competencies of Effective Leaders

Leaders need wisdom to know what to do and courage to do it.

Insight without courage ends in decay.

Courage without insight ends in catastrophe.

it dumb demoralizing and ineffective to hire for strengths and evaluate for weaknesses

The third competence:

Insight and courage require competence to be useful. You may face lions with insight and courage, but if you lack competence, the result is tragic.


It takes insight and courage to overcome the negative seduction of improving people’s weaknesses. No where is this more clearly seen than in the futile exercise that organizations call annual reviews.

It’s dumb, demoralizing, and ineffective to hire for strengths and evaluate for weaknesses. Perhaps leaders should remember why they hire people in the first place – their strengths.

Effective leaders have the insight and courage to maximize strengths and compensate for weaknesses. In 1967, Peter Drucker wrote,

“The effective executive makes strengths productive. To achieve results one has to use all the available strengths — the strengths of associates, the strength of the superior, and one’s own strengths. These strengths are the true opportunities. To make strength productive is the unique purpose of the organization. It cannot overcome the weaknesses with which each of us is endowed, but it can make them irrelevant.”


It doesn’t matter how hard you push, train, punish or reward a duck it will only thrive when it quacks. Insightful leaders don’t punish quackers for their inability to cluck.

It takes courage to reject the negative magnetism of fixing people’s weaknesses. In addition, it’s an insult to “help” people “overcome” natural inclinations like introversion or extroversion.

Maximizing strengths takes organizations further than strengthening weaknesses.

Ultimate competence:

Leadership requires insight, courage, and competence. The ultimate competence of leadership is knowing how to “make strengths productive.”

How might leaders overcome the magnetism of fixing weaknesses?

How might leaders “make strengths productive”?