The Essential
Competency Model

…measuring leadership potential for effectiveness and execution

The ESSENTIAL Competency Model© was designed to be aligned with present and future organizations’ visions and mandates. To select the right competencies for the model we began by selecting a preliminary list of defined competencies from existing models that were gathered from a literature search and google search.

After developing the list, we created a content validity survey on SurveyMonkey. The survey was sent to 125 subject matter experts around the globe. The list included senior leaders representing organizations (Fortune 500, not-for-profit, higher education, and professional services) from the United States, Europe, and Asia. Each respondent was asked to evaluate the preliminary list based on being Essential, Useful, But Not Essential, and Not Necessary. The respondents were also asked an open-ended question – “What essential leadership behaviors are absent from this survey?”

The final list of competencies was selected based on having a score greater than 50% Essential. The average score for the final competencies was 67.1 % Essential, 32.9 % Useful, But Not Essential. None of the final competencies received a Not Necessary rating. The open-ended questions replies were used to fine tune the final list of competencies; e.g., Inclusivity.

The competencies were arranged based on the Cambria Consulting Nine bucket Model1. This researched-based model (research supported by the Corporate Leadership Counsel) identified meta-competencies, or competency domains, that combine different attributes (leadership effectiveness) and practices (leadership execution). Practices are what people do on the job to get results. For example, a leader might demonstrate “directing people,” “initiating action,” and “relating successfully.” Attributes are knowledge, skills, and other characteristics that people bring to the job that enable them to carry out leadership tasks. For example, a leader might display “thinking critically,” “understanding impact,” and “leading self” as personal attributes.

The two competency domains that make up The ESSENTIAL Competency Model© are:
1) Leadership Effectiveness and 2) Leadership Execution. Leadership effectiveness is the characteristic leaders bring to the job that enable them to carry out leadership tasks. Leadership execution is what leaders do on the job to get results.

Leadership Effectiveness


Thinking Critically

  • ​Decides with speed and conviction, has mental agility
  • Demonstrates strategic foresight and an orientation to the preferred future
  • Sees the enterprise as a series of integrated and interlocking processes
  • Generates original thoughts and is resourceful in finding ways to improve things
  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards

Understanding Impact

  • Thinks and acts ethically and morally
  • Sets high standards of execution incorporating mission into daily activities
  • Knows potential impacts and consequences of decision making in situations both internally and externally
  • Shows patience and responds calmly to stressful or trying situations
  • Understands and manages the power and politics inherent in any organization
  • Is in touch with emotions and effects on behavior to better understand how to influence people to achieve outcomes

Leveraging Knowledge

  • Demonstrates continuous-improvement mindset and knows the industry
  • Leverages functional knowledge, technical skills and expertise and shares with others
  • Optimizes financial acumen to make business decisions
  • Stays up-to-date with industry-specific content knowledge, rapidly assimilating and using new knowledge
  • Effectively seeks and shares information
  • Makes evidence-based decisions

Leading Self

  • Draws on personal and professional strengths as well as areas for personal development to build capacity
  • Is aware of judgments, emotions and physical sensations resulting in greater clarity and resolve in determining the best options – especially in situations of conflict and change.
  • Knows one’s own method of decision making and problem solving
  • Understands own strengths and limitations, values self-knowledge, and seeks feedback
  • Manages the quality of their energy, regardless of the external pressures they’re facing
  • Is responsible and accountable for actions and reactions

Leadership Execution


Directing People

  • Clearly communicates expectations
    Builds and leads teams and develops future leaders
  • Challenges other people appropriately and rejects mediocrity
  • Constructively supports and manages disagreements
  • Entrust work to others, utilizing individual and team strengths to achieve goals
  • Instructs, guides, and oversees the performance of staff

Influencing Others

  • Engages with impact motivating, persuading and exciting others
  • Cuts through the noise with authentic, credible self-promotion that helps others as well as themselves
  • Serves as a change agent, assists others in understanding needed changes, reasons for change and the change process
  • Establishes and models standards that fosters exceptional quality and continuous improvement
  • Articulates ideas clearly and organizes ideas effectively
    Communicates organizational mission, vision, objectives and priorities

Initiating Action

  • Takes action without being prompted and takes personal responsibility
  • Leads a transformation/change agenda
  • Executes the vision
  • Has high level of energy and motivation to sustain performance over time
  • Turns ideas into actions that result in getting things implemented
  • Shows good judgment in strategies, tactics, and people decisions, reversing course quickly when needed

Relating Successfully

  • Works collegially, recognizes importance of relationships, inclusivity, and diversity
  • Maintains broad internal and external networks of business relationships
  • Interacts capably with a wide variety of stakeholders
  • Builds trusting, collaborative relationships
    Shows empathy towards others and considers other feelings
  • Actively listens, offers full attention when others speak, and is seen as a coach and mentor