Leadership Competencies Most Important for Leading the Function

From the white paper, “Leading with Impact: How Functional Leaders Face Challenges, Focus Development, and Boost Performance.”

CCL works closely with many leaders who are running functions or divisions in large organizations. They carry titles such as vice president or senior director and have responsibilities for one or multiple functions such as Sales, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Engineering, Technology, Legal, and Human Resources. They run business units and geographic regions. Functional leaders typically manage groups of more than 500 people, have budgets in excess of $500M, and often, are on a short list to be COO or CEO.

CCL developed a validated and reliable 360-degree assessment specifically for functional leaders to get concrete answers to these questions (Walsh, Trovas, Calarco, Leslie, Braddy). For individual leaders, this information helps focus their learning and development. We wondered what we would learn about leadership development priorities for functional leaders by analyzing the 360-degree data from nearly 1,000 leaders. With the Leading the Function 360, leaders rate themselves in terms of effectiveness in 13 critical areas, or competencies. Bosses, peers, superiors, and direct reports also rate the effectiveness of the leader. Each rater chooses their seven “most important” competencies for the functional leader’s success in the organization from the list of 13 competencies. We ranked these competencies from highest to lowest based on how frequently they were selected as most important.

The 13 competencies measured by the Leading the Function 360, in order of overall importance are:

We looked at how the different rater groups responded. There was high agreement among all raters that executive communication, execution and results, influence and strategic perspective are in the top tier.

Based on our experiences with these senior leaders, we see all of the 13 competencies are needed for success. One main reason is because they are interconnected. For example, self-awareness is critical to understanding how to improve your influence and executive communication. Second, the importance of a competency is dependent on the current role and the organization. Leading globally, for instance, was lowest on the list overall but was given higher importance in situations where leaders were in global roles in a global organization.

While every competency may not be critical all the time, to be exceptional, functional leaders need to be effective in all 13 areas.

Do you agree with these results? Which competencies are most critical for your organization?  How would you rank these thirteen competencies for leading a function or business unit?

4 thoughts on “Leadership Competencies Most Important for Leading the Function

    1. Greetings, Dan. Thank you for your interest in this white paper. It will be published on ccl.org later this week. We will post a comment here with the link to it as soon as it is live.

  1. Excellent white paper. You asked how to rank these 13 competencies. My top three would be strategic perspective, execution and results, and engagement. The rest are important, but to me these three are the core for business functions. Leaders need to have and manage to a clear strategy to know what they need to do and how to do it, they have to be able to deliver results, and they have to achieve those results through those they lead. If a leader does all the rest, but misses those three, I think there is leadership failure.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *