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By Clinton Wingrove 30 Jun, 2016

Over 40 years since starting work as a management trainee with 3M (then the 26th largest company in the world and cited as one of the most innovative), I still wonder when that training will end!

I have held line jobs, technical jobs, and been a trainer, a salesman, a consultant; a CEO, and an HR professional. And, I have learnt that every year brings a new panacea solution for either finding or developing  the exceptional leader. But, seriously, how can a clone be exceptional?

About 3 years ago, whilst experiencing yet another launch of a new instrument and competency model, I started reflecting back on what I had observed; the truly inspirational leaders I had experienced; the individuals I had seen achieve what seemed impossible. The pattern was ... that there was  no pattern in what made them exceptional!

Not surprisingly, what they had in common did not appear to be what made them unique!

Then, I had the good fortune to be able to start my own company and with a few other passionate and open-minded individuals, invested time researching this. But, unlike many others, we did not set out to find a magic set of competencies or skills; rather to find out what truly made individuals successful when put in charge of a number of others. The answer was surprisingly simple.

1. There ARE distinct areas of competence

Leadership 
Creating and bringing a vision of the future alive, and securing the commitment and resources to deliver it; bringing purpose and meaning to the organisation.

Management 
Optimising the use of resources to deliver the vision; getting things done by the right people, at the right time in the best possible way; making things happen.

Business Acumen 
Demonstrating the knowledge, skills and aptitude to operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment.

Personal Effectiveness 
Ensuring optimal personal contribution and impact by managing self and interactions with others, again in a VUCA environment.

2. But, exceptional leaders are typically only really strong in ONE of them

AND, there were two other factors that applied in  EVERY case.

3. They are not especially weak in ANY of the other three areas

They had a threshold level of competence across all competencies but clearly knew where their relative strength lay.

4. They have effective ways of compensating for relative limitations

For some, this was surrounding themselves with others with strength in those areas; for some it was putting themselves in positions that depended less on those areas; they each had their own strategies ... but, importantly, they HAD STRATEGIES.

In summary, we found that each exceptional leader we reviewed had one of four areas of competence as a significant strength and three others that backed it up and provided a firm foundation on which they could build and exploit that key strength. We developed our findings in to a holistic measurement tool, Quaternion .

With these findings, we realised that all people-managers can use the same competency model to evaluate their own unique combination of skills and to identify their specific area of strength ... on which they can then capitalise.

We don’t have to clone top talent!

By Clinton Wingrove 30 Jun, 2016

Over 40 years since starting work as a management trainee with 3M (then the 26th largest company in the world and cited as one of the most innovative), I still wonder when that training will end!

I have held line jobs, technical jobs, and been a trainer, a salesman, a consultant; a CEO, and an HR professional. And, I have learnt that every year brings a new panacea solution for either finding or developing  the exceptional leader. But, seriously, how can a clone be exceptional?

About 3 years ago, whilst experiencing yet another launch of a new instrument and competency model, I started reflecting back on what I had observed; the truly inspirational leaders I had experienced; the individuals I had seen achieve what seemed impossible. The pattern was ... that there was  no pattern in what made them exceptional!

Not surprisingly, what they had in common did not appear to be what made them unique!

Then, I had the good fortune to be able to start my own company and with a few other passionate and open-minded individuals, invested time researching this. But, unlike many others, we did not set out to find a magic set of competencies or skills; rather to find out what truly made individuals successful when put in charge of a number of others. The answer was surprisingly simple.

1. There ARE distinct areas of competence

Leadership 
Creating and bringing a vision of the future alive, and securing the commitment and resources to deliver it; bringing purpose and meaning to the organisation.

Management 
Optimising the use of resources to deliver the vision; getting things done by the right people, at the right time in the best possible way; making things happen.

Business Acumen 
Demonstrating the knowledge, skills and aptitude to operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment.

Personal Effectiveness 
Ensuring optimal personal contribution and impact by managing self and interactions with others, again in a VUCA environment.

2. But, exceptional leaders are typically only really strong in ONE of them

AND, there were two other factors that applied in  EVERY case.

3. They are not especially weak in ANY of the other three areas

They had a threshold level of competence across all competencies but clearly knew where their relative strength lay.

4. They have effective ways of compensating for relative limitations

For some, this was surrounding themselves with others with strength in those areas; for some it was putting themselves in positions that depended less on those areas; they each had their own strategies ... but, importantly, they HAD STRATEGIES.

In summary, we found that each exceptional leader we reviewed had one of four areas of competence as a significant strength and three others that backed it up and provided a firm foundation on which they could build and exploit that key strength. We developed our findings in to a holistic measurement tool, Quaternion .

With these findings, we realised that all people-managers can use the same competency model to evaluate their own unique combination of skills and to identify their specific area of strength ... on which they can then capitalise.

We don’t have to clone top talent!

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