In this series of blog posts, we have been exploring Zenger & Folkman’s Leadership Tent. The first blog entry on the topic looked at the tent as a whole, and in our second post we explored the centre pole of the tent – Character.

Today we will look at the next important tent pole – the Personal Capabilities of an individual. This cluster of abilities comprises skills or competencies that are crucial for people to be highly regarded by their peers, those who report to them, and bosses.

The Personal Capabilities of an individual describe their intellectual, emotional, and skill makeup.

An individuals’ level of technical knowledge, product knowledge, problem analysis and solving skills, professional skills, ability to innovate, initiative & effective use of information technology will often be what defines their personal capabilities.

Personal Capabilities

Leaders who exhibit a high level of Personal Capability will generally display the following:

  • They are sought by others for advice and counsel
  • Use their technical knowledge to help team members troubleshoot problems
  • Exercise a high degree of professional judgment
  • Make good decisions based on a mixture of analysis, wisdom, experience and judgment
  • Encourage alternative approaches and new ideas
  • Ability to analyse issues & solve problems
  • Constructively challenge the usual approach of doing things and find new and better ways to do the job
  • Make constructive efforts to change and improve based on feedback from others
  • Constantly look for developmental opportunities

On the other hand, individuals who do not have a high level of personal capability may:

  • Fail to anticipate and stay on top of problems
  • Do not consider an appropriate range of alternatives before making a decision
  • Have a “one right way” mindset and not be open to learning new ways of doing things
  • Are afraid to challenge existing systems, processes, or approaches
  • Shoot down new ideas or approaches
  • Seem unconcerned about any kind of self-improvement
  • Are content with their current skills and abilities

The ability to create a clear vision and sense of purpose for an organisation usually comes from someone with a high level of personal capability, and we find that great leaders are usually able to draw upon a strong collection of personal capabilities.