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  • Writer's pictureMark O'Neil

BLOG #6 on the Ten “C’s” of Leadership: Competent/Confident

Updated: Feb 7



The "10 C's":

Character, communicator, cultivator, compassionate, CONFIDENT, COMPETENT, collaborative, collegial, curious, courageous


As we continue our journey through the 10 “C’s” of great leadership, I’d like to treat confident and competent together in this blog.  To be sure, they are quite different attributes. In combination, they can be very powerful… or they can be disastrous.


To be a competent leader, you must possess a combination of our other “10 C’s”, many of which we have already discussed.  As I’ve argued, it always starts with character. Without it, it is impossible to be a good leader, regardless of profession.  Some try to get away without character, but it almost always ends badly.  Think or your own examples. Or think of the current political landscape!


With character comes integrity, trustworthiness, honesty, humility, empathy, and several other components of emotional intelligence. When these are combined with knowledge and experience, competence becomes largely assured.  However, too much confidence in an individual’s competence not yet demonstrated can be troublesome. In other words, beware of overconfidence whether it is observed in ourselves or someone else.  Writer Adam Grant, in his book Think Again, (the power of knowing what you don’t know) puts it more succinctly: “don’t get stranded at the summit of mount stupid”.  Fake confidence can be deadly! Conversely, too little confidence in one’s competence can be just as troubling. When we are competent in a given area, but lack confidence, we are limited in our willingness to take risks, overplay relying on safety and often don’t get to the right decision or direction.




In a previous blog, we discussed the Coaches Training Institute’s approach to assessing competence and it is worth repeating here. In this model, there are four levels of competence:


                        UNCONCIOUS INCOMPETENCE:

                                  We don’t know what we don’t know.


                        CONCIOUS INCOMPETENCE:

                                   We know what we don’t know and are committed to working on learning to move to the next level.



         There are encouraging signs that we “get it” and are moving to a new level of competence, but we are not there yet. 


                        CONCIOUS COMPETETENCE:

                                    We “get it” and we know where we are in our confidence in a given subject matter.


It is important for every good leader to spend some time thinking about where they are on this continuum and where each member their team is.  For example:  I have been acutely aware since my grad school days that financial management was not my strong suit.  I was stuck in the conscious incompetence realm for some time!! For my entire career, I looked for only the best teammates when it came to financial leadership.  Sure, I can read a balance sheet and P+L and know the questions to ask, but when I didn’t know, I asked. The point is, we must be aware of our level of competence and balance it with our level of confidence.


This is often a topic of conversation in my executive coaching sessions.  I hope you will think about it and as always, share your thoughts with me on this and the other “10 C’s”.




Follow my blogs on the “10 C’s” at www.aspiriancoaching/




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