Competence vs. Competency in Executive Leadership

As each organization navigates the complexities and uncertainties of the business landscape, the effectiveness of its leaders becomes a determining factor for success. Within the realm of executive leadership, competence and competency are often discussed interchangeably, but there are profound distinctions between the two. Understanding the nuances between these concepts is essential for organizations aiming to cultivate leadership excellence.

The difference between competence and competency

Competence is fundamentally tied to technical proficiency, encompassing the specific abilities and education needed for a particular role. It serves as the basis upon which an executive can accomplish tasks and fulfill responsibilities effectively.

Competency goes beyond technical qualifications and considers the holistic qualities necessary for effective leadership. This includes behavioral attributes, such as adaptability and resilience, as well as innate abilities like critical thinking and strategic vision.

  • Competence: A competent leader efficiently manages a department, ensuring projects are timely and remain within budget, and demonstrates a solid grasp on necessary strategies and execution. This leader meets all the basic requirements of their role, hitting targets consistently and maintaining reliability.
  • Competency: A leader with specific competencies excels beyond basic duties, fostering creativity and innovation. This leader encourages open communication, values diverse perspectives, and empowers team members to initiate and take risks for groundbreaking results and high team morale.

While both leaders are immediately effective executives, the leader with distinct competencies will inspire exceptional team performance, achieve more ambitious goals, and drive more business growth over time.

The role of emotional intelligence in competency

Emotional intelligence (also referred to as EQ) plays a central role in leadership competency. EQ involves the ability to understand, manage, and leverage one’s own emotions to influence others. Emotionally intelligent leaders are adept at navigating complex social situations, fostering cooperation across diverse teams, and inspiring innovative action. Their ability to empathize, communicate effectively, and manage conflicts contributes significantly to their overall aptitude as leaders.

Executives with high emotional intelligence typically demonstrate four key competencies:

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is the foundational ability to recognize and understand one’s own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and values, as well as the ways these affect others. Leaders who exhibit a high degree of self-awareness are conscious of their capabilities and limitations, which fosters a climate of openness and trust.

2. Self-management

Self-management encompasses the ability to regulate and control personal emotions effectively. Leaders who excel in self-management can navigate challenging situations with composure and promote a more strategic approach to sentiment. Over time, self-management contributes to a positive work environment and solution-oriented culture.

3. Social awareness

Social awareness involves recognizing the emotions and perspectives of others. Leaders with high social awareness can empathize with their team members on a deep level, relate to their challenges, and cultivate camaraderie. They can also identify potential conflicts within the team and address them proactively, fairly, and effectively.

4. Relationship management

Relationship management is the ability to build positive and productive relationships with others. Leaders who excel in relationship management can positively inspire, influence, and mentor others. They understand how to motivate their teams and develop talent resources organically, aligning individual goals with an organization’s broader objectives.

Hiring executives for their capacity to influence

In the contemporary business environment, where collaboration and adaptability are paramount, the ability to influence becomes a critical factor in leadership success. This necessitates a shift in focus from a solely competence-based hiring approach to a more holistic assessment. While technical skills and qualifications are still relevant at a foundational level, additional emphasis must be placed on a candidate’s leadership competency and emotional intelligence.

Reliable partners in executive search prove invaluable here, helping organizations identify and recruit leaders with the right mix of competence and competency. Their talent pool of executives, along with their expertise in evaluating leadership potential, goes beyond traditional metrics, ensuring that organizations find professionals capable of navigating the complexities of the modern business world.

Enhance your leadership team competency

At hireneXus, we specialize in identifying leaders with a unique blend of competence and crucial competencies, ensuring they meet all technical role requirements while offering the competencies needed to influence your organization and drive unparalleled success.

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