Focussed Leadership

A Review on Competency Skill Mapping of Customer-Focussed Leadership

Written By, Dr. Annjaan Daash || Dr. Prabir Pal || Dr. S. Pragadeeswaran

Annjaan Daash: Training and Placement Head, Regional College of Management, Bhubaneswar, Odisha; Research Scholar at Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar, T.N., India

Dr. Prabir Pal: Chairman, Regional College of Management, Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Dr. S. Pragadeeswaran: Department of Business Administration, Annamalai University, Annamalai Nagar, T.N., India


The main aim of this paper is to critically evaluate leadership competencies based on an extensive review of the literature and focus group discussion on selected firms in the Health sector. Besides, the study outlines the core competencies and sub-competencies for leadership management.

A viable competency management system mainly facilitates an ecosystem for continuous performance, improving the consistency of standards and providing scope for improving skill and abilities and tracking the outcomes and developments within an Organisation. The competency mapping needs to be evolving in order to build required capabilities and address emerging challenges.

One should invest in an organisation taking into account factors like understanding the business and leadership team of the organisation. This abundantly demonstrates the importance of Leadership Development for an organization’s competitive advantage.

Most organisations on the contrary invest monumental amounts for the leadership development program but fail to achieve results. There is a decline in performances in both experienced and promising newcomers. Tottering programs and haphazard solutions are not fruitful.

As an amendment, a competency-based leadership development process where critical behavioral descriptors connect what the organization stands for and clearly portray staged expectations based on the maturity of an employee and give a structured model for preparing a development directory for each behavioral descriptor. In conclusion, valued inputs and reflections of a large number of hard-core professionals have come to the forefront.

Keywords- Competency management system, competency directory, Leadership development

1. Introduction

Theodore Levitt in a 1960, HBR article Marketing Myopia said “These days organisations are customer created and customer satisfying organisms and winning at market place is giving customers enough reasons to choose”. In this regard, it is important to analyse competencies for customer focussed leadership.

In a knowledge-based competitive economy, every organization needs to assess the competency of their workforce and take measures to develop them on a regular basis. Competent employees are valued resources and they take the Organization forward leading to success.

McClelland (1973) stated that “competence” in tradition, is “a personal trait or set of habits that lead to more effective or superior job performance”. In simple terms, it adds to the enhancement of the ability of a person and economic value to his efforts in the job.

Competency is the capacity of an individual developing behavior, adequate for the job demands governed by parameters given the organisational setup leading to achieving the goals. The competency mix is comprised of Knowledge, Skills, Attitude, and Values that lead to the effective discharging of organisational responsibility.

Competency mapping is used to identify key attributes like knowledge, skills, and behavior attributes needed for effective job classification. In competency mapping the organization assesses the strengths and weaknesses of individuals and informs them of the areas they need to focus on for career development.

Assessment of strengths and weaknesses of leadership and suitable measures to increase competencies of leadership are important for the performance and sustaining of the organization. It assumes significance to map the competencies of each organization. The health sector as a service provider and critical sector for the economy can serve as a perfect case for analysis. In this context, the main aim of the paper is to critically evaluate the mapping of core competencies and sub-competencies of customer-focused leadership.

The paper is planned in the following sections. Section 2 reviews the selected literature. Section 3 discusses major observations on leadership competencies. While section 4 analyses sample maturity Banding, section 5 provides conclusive remarks.

2. Review of literature

In this section, an attempt is made to review selected literature pertaining to leadership competencies both in international and national contexts. McClelland (1973) emphasized profiling the exact competencies for doing a particular job effectively rather than only depending on achievements and intelligence scores. Gilbert (1996) suggested that competency, that is abilities to consistently produce is essential and most crucial in achieving the organizational goals.

Deb (2006) highlighted the role of the Human Resource Manager in continuously upgrading systems, processes, and skills through required internal and external programs. He also suggested that updating the knowledge through training and expertise will help improve the competencies of leaders or individuals involved and the overall business ecosystem.

While analyzing competency, Boyatzis (2007) identified 19 generic competencies that an excellent business manager would possess. He then classified these competencies into five distinct clusters having relevance to different aspects of human resource management. Gaspar (2012) highlighted on the advantages of the Competency-based selection approach which is more comprehensive and effective.

Kumar, et al. (2013) have examined the importance of capability development in accelerating the modern development process. They observed that better capabilities of people and development are required to meet customer requirements in the globalized era.

Fowler (2018) has emphasized self-determination and psychological needs in the promotion of leadership competencies. Macasa et al. (2019) assessed on competencies of school leaders and observed that the role of school leaders is important for the effective design of academic programs and the success and growth of schools. Daash (2019) observed that parameters used in the selection process like academic grades failed to encourage job performance. Megheirkouni and Mejheirkouni (2020) argued that in order to address the emerging challenges facing organizations, leadership theories are fundamental for leadership development theories.

The aforementioned literature mainly analyses and highlights the importance of competency mapping. In the current scenario, the organizations that have explicitly crafted the competencies and consciously linked them to the leadership development initiatives have been more successful than those that have done otherwise.

But in the arena of leadership competencies and leadership development, two questions stifle any Human Resource (HR) professional throughout the world. They are:

  1. Despite spending so much energy and time in developing the stringent measures of leadership competencies, still survivors pass all the competency tests either during entry-level recruitment or the post-entry-level assessment stage. However, somehow, they may not show confidence to meet the challenges.
  2. Despite having a pool of great leaders, why did the organization fail to develop a leadership chain?

In this context Dave Ulrich in his recent release “The Leadership Brand” argues that the “Leadership field has become so enamored with competencies and personal characteristics of leaders that the leader’s job to deliver results is almost forgotten.” (Ulrich et al, 2007)

So before any HR professional jumps into defining leadership competencies first he/she needs to understand some fundamentals of leadership that will open the mind, because once the foundations are solid, a bridge can hang from suspension towers like the San Fransisco Bay Bridge. (Ulrich et al, 2007)

Most of the recent approaches lay emphasis on individuals as leaders, rather than developing leadership in an organization. There is a need to shift the approach from leader to leader. Celebrity leaders have become de rigueur on the covers of business magazines and most of us like to identify and admire them. But do these leaders represent leadership?

To understand the relationship between leader and leadership, quoting the following powerful analogies would help.

Analogy 1: Mother Vs Motherhood

An individual mother is a powerful figure as a member of a family. However, the concept of motherhood is focused on nurturing the next generation of children so that they can grow up to be contributing members of society and make their families proud.

Analogy 2: Shepherd Vs the leading sheep in a group

A leader is like a shepherd, he stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind. (Ulrich et al, 2007)

Hence leaders matter but leadership matters more. Leadership is related to the process of building leadership. Good leaders can develop an organization’s leadership capability. So the organization would sustain itself in the future.

Leadership requires the X factors or the system that will help to build future leaders who can meet customers’ and investors’ expectations. Hence, the prime focus of any study on leadership should not be what are the effective attributes of a leader but should be what can be done for effective leadership.

In the current situation, some of the abilities grow from heritage and some are learned from experience. An analogy to this end could be why some people wait for the organization to spoon-feed the way to serve a customer and why some people do not. They will just do it for the organization. In an organizational context, we need to define what percent of leadership code could be learned from experience and what comes from heritage. This will give us a reason to focus on what leadership behaviors to look for in recruitment and what leadership behaviors to focus on in leadership development.

In one company producing mobile sets they identified 12 competencies but nine of them fell into personal proficiency and in another company producing consumer goods they had set 10 competencies but 8 of them fell into the execution quadrant. If this is not right then what would be the leading competency which will comprise the bulk of the leadership portfolio? The table -1 will give the clues.

Walmart is known for Everyday low prices; accordingly, the leadership program should be aligned to Managing cost-efficiently and getting things done on time. Lexus is known for its relentless pursuit of perfection; accordingly, the leadership program should be aligned to Managing quality processes to improve constantly. Apple is known for innovation and design accordingly the leadership program should be aligned to creating new products and services outside the industry norms.

Initially, under the leadership of CEO Watson, the foundation of IBM started with three basic beliefs:

  1. Respect for the individual
  2.  Customer focus
  3. Excellence in everything we do

The entire business including the leadership pipeline was built around these central beliefs.

With the passage of time, however, each of these beliefs had taken on layers of meaning that no longer fit with the external environment. “Respect for the individual” meant lifetime employment and never firing people. “Customer focus” meant telling customers what to do, particularly advocating the mainframe computer, in the face of rising interest in making independent choices through the invention of laptops and other modes of portable computing. “Excellence in everything we do” led to a level of perfectionism that made it harder to get new product innovation out the door.

After shrinking market share and dipping revenues Gerstner after he took over as CEO, felt that the three classic beliefs and the leadership brand based on them need to be killed. Gerstner led IBM to identify a new set of three primary beliefs for IBM upon which leadership development centered.

  • Win
  • Execute
  • Team

Everybody at IBM embraced it because it fit their new reality and over a period of time IBM started gaining its lost reputation and market share. Likewise, with the evolution of customer expectation, the organization should evolve and the leadership development process also should keep evolving both structurally (Ulrich, D et al, 2007)

3.  Major Observations on Leadership Competencies

The main objective of this section is to analyze the competency mapping for the marketing agents and leadership competencies. The analysis specifically aims to prescribe competency of marketing agents for Vester-gaard (a premier organization in the pharmaceutical sector) after conducting a detailed study of familiar marketing professionals both in and outside the pharmaceutical sectors.

Data collected from different organizations

Pharmaceutical Companies

i. Not in practice in full-scaleRanbaxyBayer, IPCADaburSyngenta
General competency (core)i. Not in practice on full scalei. Not in practice in full scalePlanning and organizingInnovationConsumer orientation1. Teamwork
2. innovation:
3. Problem solving
4. Business acumenLeadershipCost consciousness Concern about the environment
Unique competency (specific to marketing departments)1. Work-related achievements
2. Aim is a research-based organization, 3. R & D, marketing same innovation
i. Not in practice in full scalePlanning and organizingInnovationConsumer orientationCreativityPerseverancePatienceGood listening abilities


CompetencyPunjab National BankKotak Security Franchise1. Achieving targets
2. Problem-Solving of customers
3. Problem analysis
4. Developing self-learning
5. Managing people
General competency (core)1. Team orientation
2. communication skills
3. people management
4. Customer focus
5. Problem solving
6. Planning and organizing
1. Achieving targets
2. Problem-Solving of customers
3. Problem analysis
4. Developing self- learning
5. Managing people
1. Achieving targets
2. Problem-Solving of customers
Unique competency (specific to marketing departments)1. Research and development
2. policy formulations
3. Policy implementation through various channels
4. Periodic review of achievements
5. Compilation of data
1. Planning and organizing 2. Customer Focus
3. Team orientation
1. Better communication skills


General competency (core)Not decided1. Monitoring
2. Target fulfilling people Management
3. Team Orientation
Unique competency (specific to marketing departments)Not decided1. Achieving target
2. To make corporate updates with the properties of the organization and keep on hammering them by giving good hospitality

Other Companies

CompetencyTata motors PlantVizag SteelWest Central Railway
General competency (core)3. Better communication skills
4. Efficiency
i) Not in use1. Common core competencies
2. Commo n Unique competencies
Unique competency (specific to marketing departments)3. Better Communication Skills
4. Efficiency
i) Not in useNot applicable
Analysisi) Communication
1. Common core competencies
2. Common Unique competencies


After discussion with the management along with HR level-wise competencies was recommended

1. Master Thinker:

Thinks strategically and Thinks out-of-box. Imagine opportunities by connecting missing links that are hidden in plain sight.

  • Challenges the status quo and asks incisive questions that open minds and incite the imagination.
  • Zero gravity thinking creates an open-source approach to searching for opportunities.
  • Engages everyone shopping for ideas.
  • Picking up early warning signals of issues that are just emergent or gaining traction.
  • Envisages the future by imagining ennobling possibilities.
  • Has the personal imagination to construct patterns from emerging disparate trends.
  • Always search for the missing links and missing ingredients.
  • Develops methodologies for anticipating and detecting breaks in the continuity of the external landscape to pinpoint “WHAT IS NEXT”

Source: Know-how by Ram Charan, 2007

2. An Energetic Leader who Initiates, Executes, Influences, and Inspires

  • He is the first to trust.
  • He is a cheerleader who adds fun to everyone’s work, personalizes recognitions, and makes every celebration memorable.
  • Has the energy and drive to take things to the next level.
  • Always go the extra mile to seize the opportunity for challenging and bigger assignments.
  • Able to prioritize among four criteria – what is important, what is urgent, what is long term versus short term, what is realistic versus visionary?
  • Is able to make a judicious decision in the absence of a clear picture, precedents, and guidelines.
  • Enlarges people’s sphere of influence and strengthens others by sharing power and discretion.
  • Makes it safe for others to experiment.
  • Provides challenging and value-added stretched assignments for all of his direct reports.
  • Creates a climate for learning and always encourages reverse mentoring.
  • Maintains a disciplined follow-through.
  • Has the courage to give honest feedback so that his direct reports can learn and grow.
  • Able to spot talent and uncover the gifted abilities of another individual.
  • With high accuracy can detect and construct the DNA of a person and the valuation of a business.
  • Has the ability to position or reposition a business.
  • Gives life to a vision and appeals to shared aspirations.
  • Is able to confront, resolve uncertainties, and pinpoint external change.

Source: Kouzes J.M and Posner, B.Z. (2017):

3. A Great Communicator and a Skilled Builder of Relationships and Networks

Understands the dynamics of communications and relationships at the workplace and masters the art of customized delivery in one-to-one settings to one-to-many settings.

  • Creates places and opportunities for informal interaction.
  • Remembers other’s names.
  • Encourages others to vent their emotions.
  • Responds to the feelings, then the facts, not the reverse.
  • Owns his statements.
  • Substitute “we” with “you and I
  • Judges people’s content, not their delivery.
  • Recognizes the body language of resistance and the implication of what is not said
  • Provides a better and best option.
  • Avoids stepping on other’s sentences, overloading information to the point of distortion, ending every statement with a question, overlooking good advice because of packaging, and giving premature feedback or advice.
  • Supports, explains, or rejects only one idea at a time.
  • Criticizes the viewpoint or behavior, not the person.
  • Quickly relates well to people of diverse backgrounds and integrity.
  • Knows when small talk is appropriate.
  • Knows how to probe with open-ended questions and how to ask closed questions to gain agreement.
  • Knows how to use “why” questions with care.
  • Knows how to give others a graceful exit and a face-saving comeback.
  • Recalls at least three ways to say a “NO” and make a conscious choice.
  • Do not ask questions too broad to answer.
  • Tactfully rejects questions that are too personal.
  • Summarizes frequently.
  • Rehearses criticism and selects the appropriate emotional timing to criticize in private.
  • Organises ideas for the greatest impact.
  • Has a rich archive of best-selling words.
  • This leads the person to do a self-critique.
  • Moves people from the emotional level to the analytical level.
  • Disagrees without being disagreeable.
  • Strips ownership from views.
  • Listens to the counters to the proposal rather than planning for rebuttal.
  • Before giving the answer consider the costs and opportunities.
  • Recognizes when enough is enough.
  • In a conflict knows when to accommodate, compromise, overpower, or collaborate.
  • Mentions the “don’ts” in such a way he does not dictate the “dos”.
  • Treat every relationship as if it will last for a lifetime.

Source: Dianna Booher,1994

4. A Wonderful Team player

Has comprehensive knowledge and experience in team dynamics to build and sustain a high-performance team.

  • Knows how to subordinate individual priorities to the group’s purpose goals.
  • Willing to accept experience, knowledge, and learning from others.
  • Recognizes personal sensitivities, and group discipline.
  • Does not pass the blame on to others and accepts responsibility for outcomes.
  • Makes personal sacrifices to meet larger group goals.
  • Constructively argues and discusses not for consensus but to seek the best logical answer.

Has clarity and expertise regarding –

  • Which performance challenges are best accomplished by individual assignments and which require a team effort?
  • How to constitute a team based on complementary skills, not position.
  • How to share and do equivalent amounts of real work.
  • How to articulate and communicate the expected team behaviors and get the team to commit to them.
  • How to surface and resolve team conflicts, considering personal sensitivities but without making poor compromises on position and power.
  • When electronic interactions are best then a formal get-together is required.

Has clarity and expertise regarding–

  • How to use shared leadership depending on the issue at hand and relative to the skills
  • How to break down the hierarchical pattern of interaction and assign work based on skill rather than position.
  • How to identify and apply both the team discipline and single leader discipline as the respective performance goal dictates.
  • How to go for small and big wins together.
  • When to modify the membership to include others down the line to enhance the collective ability to achieve particular goals.
  • How to reconfigure the group into sub-teams more appropriate to specific issues, opportunities, or problems identified.
  • When to dissolve and establish a new team.

Source: Jonr Catznbach and Douglas K. Smith,1993

5. A Live Example of Deciding, Acting, Delivering, and Staying Fast

Builds shorter processes that use less paper and connect people digitally for faster delivery of goods and services.

  • Constantly upgrades the IT quotient to adopt the web lifestyle since IT these days is the common denominator across all functions.
  • Actively facilitates converting paper processes to digital processes.
  • Uses digital tools so that he can spend more time analyzing information rather than collecting it.
  • Is an active domain leader/contributor to the digital repository system where the organization preserves and augments its accumulated knowledge.
  • Is a master of using portable devices and wireless networks for faster communication and data sharing.
  • Effectively re-evaluates/redesigns the work processes around him to simplify and reduce the length of a process at least once every year.
  • Facilitates in architecting and deploying the digital nervous system in his function for faster turnaround.
  • Rewards worthy failure – experimentation.
  • Digitally links virtual teams from separate departments and geographies.

Source: Bill Gates, 2000

  • Convincingly presents features and benefits to customers.
  • Making sure that customer orders are filled correctly and delivered on time.
  • Checks that customers have received proper instructions, training, and technical assistance in the use of the product.
  • Seizes every opportunity to stay in touch with customers after the sale to ensure that they are satisfied.
  • Mapping customer perceptions, preferences, and requirements.
  • Communicating customer wants and expectations to product designers.
  • Gathering customer ideas for product and service improvements and conveying them to the appropriate departments.
  • Innovates and establishes new channels for effective delivery of products and services.
  • Gives accurate leads on what to innovate and where to position a product.
  • Architects the introduction of a new product or service with benchmark speed to market.Maps and Targets Prospects with high accuracy.
  • Constantly builds cross-functional expertise in managing People, Finance, and IT applications to assume higher responsibilities.

Source: Kotler, P. (2003)

Source: Daash, A et al (2019-20), Daash, A (2019)

4. Sample Maturity Banding: Major Competencies of Leadership

It is important to analyze the characteristics and competencies of sample maturity banding. It is observed that all the major leadership competencies as per Kouzes J.M and Posner, B.Z. (2017) and Ulrich, D and Smallwood, N ( 2007); Leadership Brand along with the behavioral descriptors which were administered in a focused group interview at NTPC, NOIDA across different experience levels. The observations are summarized (Daash, 2012).

Major Competencies of Leadership

1. MODEL the Way

  • Having a clear sense of mission, knowing where we are headed, and seeing the end results. (0- 5 years experience)
  • Going the extra mile to seize the opportunity for challenging and bigger initiatives. (0-5 years experience)
  • Being able to uncover the gifted abilities of another individual (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Being able to make a judicious decision in the absence of a clear picture, precedents, and guidelines. (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Engaging everyone shopping for ideas, search for the best practices as well as the “next practice” (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Doing all that builds trust and practices integrity (>/ 10 years of experience)
  • Displaying good peripheral vision for how to scope, scan, and interpret signals hidden in plain sight. ( >/ 10 years of experience)

2. INSPIRE a shared vision

  • Discovering a compelling common ground in every vision. (0-5 years experience)
  • Communicating the common vision in an attractive, appealing way with bestselling words, imagery, and metaphors. (0-5 years experience)
  • Convincingly articulating the vision of the future to the members of his team. (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Engaging the team members in a dialogue about their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. (>/ 10 years of experience)
  • Generating buy-in of solo experts to practice the power of collective “group think”. (>/ 10 years of experience)

3. CHALLENGE the process

  • Asking incisive questions that open minds and incite the imagination. (0-5 years experience)
  • Having a great Emotional Quotient to stay on course even if fatigued or discouraged. (0-5 years experience)
  • Challenging the status quo in the absence of a blessing or “buy-in” from key individuals in the organization. (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Having the courage to say no on logical grounds, even to influential and powerful people, and even if it will make them unhappy or upset. (>/ 10 years of experience)

4. ENABLE others to Act

  • Having the courage to give honest feedback so that his direct reports can learn and grow. (0- 5 years experience)
  • Providing challenging and value-added stretched assignments for all of his direct reports. (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Communicating an activity with a clear line of sight to business outcomes. (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Creating a climate for learning and always encouraging reverse mentoring. (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Enlarging people’s sphere of influence and strengthening others by sharing power and discretion. (>/ 10 years of experience)
  • Making it safe for others to experiment. (>/ 10 years of experience)
  • Is able to go for small and big wins together on a consistent basis (>/ 10 years of experience)

5. ENCOURAGE the Heart

  • Adding fun to everyone’s work. (0-5 years experience)
  • Personalizing recognitions and making every celebration memorable. (0-5 years experience)
  • Relating to people more head-to-head and heart-to-heart. (5 – 9 years of experience)
  • Infusing energy, hope, and joy into the lives of the people that you relate to. (>/ 10 years of experience)

Source:( Daash, 2012), Ulrich, D and Smallwood, N ( 2007)

5. Conclusion

The main aim of the paper was to analyse the competency mapping of customer-focused leadership.

Most organizations believe that their competency-based leadership development once established shall require cosmetic changes while the basic architecture shall remain the same. But as products and services evolve with changing customer expectations, the essence and process of leadership development should also constantly change, very often both the skeleton and the flesh need a radical review.

Competency is a moving target. Any Competency Management Concept is not a permanent solution that will instantly solve all of the problems forever. Hence organization should be treated as an unfinished prototype, which should be evolving and upgrading to a better competency management framework that is difficult to imitate and will give you a competitive advantage.


I am extremely grateful to Dr. Prasanta Kr. Panda, H.O.D. Economics, Central University of Tamil Nadu for numerous courtesies.

6. References

  1. Booher Dianna, 30-Sep-1994, Communicate with Confidence, – By TMH publication; pp: 1-432
  2. Boyatzis, R. E. (2007). Developing Emotional Intelligence Competencies, (p. 28–52). Psychology Press.
  3. Catznbach Jonr, K.Smith Douglas, 1993; The Wisdom of Teams, HBR 1993; PP: 1-291
  4. Charan Ram, (January 2, 2007); Know–How, Crown Business; 1 edition pp 1- 304
  5. Daash, A (2012): Tomorrows competencies of Customer Focused Leaders, Shiv Shakti International Journal in Multidisciplinary and Academic Research, 1 (4-7) :
  6. Daash, A (2019): “Tomorrows competencies of Marketing Agents” – J Pezzottaite Journals- International Journal of Logistics & S.C.M. Perspectives, 2(1):172 -177
  7. Daash, A et al (2019): Competency-based training design: focus on Leadership, Icfai Business School; (May 2019) : 12- 18
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  9. Deb Tapomoy, 2006, Strategic Approach to Human Resource Management, Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2006 – Personnel management – 412 pages
  10. Fowler, S. (2018). Toward a new curriculum of leadership competencies: Advances in motivation science call for rethinking leadership development. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 20(2), 182-196.
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