Capacity, character and competence

By Ken Behr

There is a leadership revolution that has grown quickly the past 20 years.

ThinkstockPhotos-480711066From books, classes and seminars, to college programs — including doctoral programs in leadership — the art (if not science) of leadership has become big business.

According to the American Society of Training and Development, U.S. businesses spend more than $170 billion dollars on leadership-based curriculum. The top leadership gurus in the world are best-selling authors and speakers and have undoubtedly helped millions of individuals and businesses.

The definitions of leadership vary from the simple “leadership is influence” to incorporating vision, creativity, ton- setting, inspiration and tenacity.

While many argue that leadership is not about traits, most will acknowledge that there are certain qualities that are common among great leaders. I would argue that these qualities often can be summarized by what are often called the 3 C’s : capacity, character and competence.

Unlike leadership activities, these 3 C’s are axioms or truths that are necessary traits for leaders in order to have long term success in an organization.

Capacity is the combination of skill-set and volume. In brief, it’s the necessary amount or resources available for the production of desired output. In humans, capacity can be amazingly elastic for short periods of time. Great leaders are high-capacity managers of the resources at their disposal.

Character is too often defined by constantly evolving cultural qualities. This is unfortunate, as character is actually internal traits that align with moral truths. Honesty, integrity, empathy, courage and faithfulness are among the virtues that are typically spiritually defined, taught and infused in character.

Competence is the one quality that is actually very subjective. A leader can be very competent in one area and completely lacking or incompetent in another area. It is said that competence alone cannot make a leader — but it can certainly undo one.


Ken Behr is the executive director of Faith Dialogue, a faith-based nonprofit in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.



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