Leading For Competence - Getting Things Done

Leading For Competence - Getting Things Done

With 15+ years of experience in the Software Industry, one of the most important leadership qualities I have come to appreciate is “Getting Things Done”. This is purely a personal opinion. Regardless of what the Oxford English dictionary or Harvard business management books say, at the end of the day, the most important quality that defines a good leader are the things they get done.

There are many leadership books, self-help books, and there are pioneers and legends who have spoken about leadership styles, leadership approaches, and many more. I read some of them - to be honest, many of them. One of the common patterns I noticed was that most of them focus on the behavior approach. But none of them actually tell the reader the reflection of behavior based on the competence of the individual, and they provide scattered information on certain terminologies. In this blog post, I will explain in detail how to answer some questions regarding “Getting Things Done” by reflecting on your behavior based on the levels of competence of the people you are working with.

Before I explain this, let me explain a few terms we often use when talking about leadership

Skill: A skill is a specific ability or expertise that is developed through training, practice, or experience. Skills are often practical, tangible, and can be easily measured or demonstrated. Examples include debugging a software, programming in a particular language, defining a stack in a cloud service provider like AWS, or using a particular software for observability, etc… Skills are often easier to measure and assess objectively. You can test or observe someone’s proficiency in a particular skill through practical tasks or assessments such as AWS certifications or Azure certifications etc…

Competence: Competence is a broader concept that encompasses a combination of skills, knowledge, abilities, and behaviors required to perform a specific job or task effectively. Competencies are often seen as a set of attributes that contribute to overall job performance. This means the competence of a person is a function of knowledge and skills that can be gained from education, training, and experience. Competencies may involve a combination of skills, knowledge, and behaviors, making them sometimes more challenging to measure in a straightforward manner. Assessing competencies often requires a more holistic evaluation of an individual’s performance. Remember those code assessment, system design, and code pairing interviews that companies conduct before hiring? They are meant to assess competencies.

Confidence: Confidence is a measure of a person’s self-assuredness - a feeling of being able to do a task well without much supervision.

Motivation: Motivation is a person’s interest in and enthusiasm for doing a task well.

Commitment: Commitment is a combination of confidence and motivation.

Now it’s time for me to help you understand what is the problem in “Getting Things Done”.

The problem would be either Commitment or Competence.

One of the most interesting difference when it comes to Commitment and Competence is, first one could be measured with various approaches, but latter one as I said earlier, needs a holistic approach. There is also another very interesting variable when it comes to Commitment and Competence, latter is highly contextual, but Commitment has no context.

One of the most interesting differences between Commitment and Competence is that the former can be measured with various approaches, but the latter — as I said earlier — needs a holistic approach. Another very interesting distinction is that Competence is context-dependent while Commitment has no context.

How do I as a leader change my behavior based on the Commitment or Competence of the people I am leading ?

One easy approach would be to classify them based on the combination of Commitement and Competence. Remember that everyone has a peak performance potential. You just need to know where they are coming from and meet them there.

Below are the most probable ones in any organization and in the most ideal scenarios.
  1. Low Competence and High Commitment
  2. Average Competence and Low Commitment
  3. High Competence and Average Commitment
  4. High Competence and High Commitment

There are some other combinations which I would assume you defer a candidate during the interview when you hire, If you identify such characteristics. Ideally no leader hires folks with such character. Sometimes it happens, as you all know it is common, there are exceptions in every organization.

One of those no hire red-flag combinations : -
  1. Low Competence and Low commitment

This way of classifying people would ease my behavioral reflection while evaluating them.

How do I shift my behaviour, based on commitment and Competence level of individuals ?

Situational Leadership Theory, developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in the late 1960s and early 1970s, helps us by defining four leadership behaviors, each corresponding to a different level of follower readiness. The theory also suggests there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. Instead, effective leaders adapt their leadership style based on readiness or maturity ( Competence or Commitment ) of their followers.

  1. Directing: The Leader should provide specific instructions and closely supervises task accomplishment.

  2. Coaching: The leader continues to direct and closely supervise task accomplishment, but also explains decisions, solicits suggestions, and supports progress.

  3. Supporting: The Leader facilitates and supports subordinate’s efforts toward task accomplishment and shares responsibility for decision making with them.

  4. Delegating: The leader turns over responsibility for decision making and problem solving to subordinates.

As a leader before reflecting on each of those leadership styles above, it is better to understand that no matter what style you exhibit your personal capability matters a lot.

You should be capable of doing things that your subordinates cannot do for themselves. If you can’t, then it is hard to lead them or you are not the correct person to lead them

The table Below provides a clean overview of different leadership styles, their associated group characteristics, where each style might be applicable.

Class/Group People Characteristics Leader Behaviour
Low Competence and High Commitment Directing
Average Competence and Low Commitment Coaching
High Competence and Average Commitment Supporting
High Competence and High Commitment Delegating
Leading For Competence - Getting Things Done

Leadership effectiveness depends on various factors, including the specific situation, organizational culture, and individual personalities. Remember that effective leadership involves flexibility and the ability to adapt to the needs of individuals and the situation at hand. Leaders may need to use a combination of styles based on the characteristics of the team and the context in which they are working. Additionally, it’s essential to consider ethical considerations and organizational values when choosing a leadership approach.

To summarize, to successfully lead your followers, all you have to do is understand their commitment and Competence, and reflect on your behavior based on that. That would help you get things done.

The most factful evidence of a leader who got things done is when people say “We Did It Overselves”.

There are several tools for a leader such as

  1. Defining short precise goals
  2. Recognizing individuals
  3. Reprimands

Which would help him to change the characteristics of people but again, A leader cannot always work on changing the characteristics of people or he cannot also always work on “Getting Things Done”, there should be a balance. That would be another blog post for sure. I hope you enjoyed reading this.


If you’re interested in delving deeper into the topic of Situational Leadership Theory, the following references provide valuable insights and additional perspectives:

Blanchard, Kenneth H. (2019). Leading at a higher level : Blanchard on leadership and creating high performing organizations. Ken Blanchard Companies OCLC 1081335498


I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to my colleagues Ruben, Jill, Allesandra and Ben at Philips for their invaluable assistance with lot encouragement in enhancing the readability of my blog post. Their insightful feedback and collaborative efforts played a crucial role in making the content more engaging and intuitive. I am truly grateful for their support and contributions to this endeavour.