III – The Acquisition of Competence

Nature has something to do with it. Some people seem born with the ability to focus, to organize, to think logically and sequentially and keep their eye on the prize. Other people less so. Other people are in this aspect less adroit. Some seem even early in their lives – in school – to have greater difficulty than others staying on task for the purpose of getting the work done. This does not of itself, clearly, make them less smart. But just as clearly their inability, or is it in some their reluctance, to set a goal and then swiftly and efficaciously plan to reach that goal makes them less competent.

What then is a leader, or a would-be leader, to do? There are no courses in competence, no programs designed to teach competence per se. It is not even clear that competence can be taught. If some of us are just born less competent than others – as some of us are just born less musical or mathematical than others – perhaps trying to teach competence is a fool’s errand.

On this are two things to be said. First, if competence is not a leader’s strong suit, best he or she acknowledge it and compensate. Compensate by bringing on board talent in competence. People who are good at setting a goal, and even better at knowing how goals can be reached. In fact, even competent leaders are well advised to surround themselves with competent followers, competence being a skill, or a trait, or a characteristic of considerable consequence.

Second, if competence is not a leader’s strong suit, best he or she acknowledge it and compensate. In this instance compensate by 1) acquiring competence- consciousness; 2) acquiring contextual-consciousness; and 3) acquiring experiential-consciousness.  

  1. Competence-consciousness = understanding and appreciating the importance of competence.  
  2. Contextual-consciousness = understanding and appreciating the importance of context(s).
  3. Experiential-consciousness = understanding and appreciating the important of experience.

This last is of particular importance. I earlier mentioned music and math as areas of expertise in which some of us likely are born more gifted than others. For example, I know about myself that I could practice the piano eight hours a day and never be an especially good pianist. But if I did practice piano eight hours a day, I would be a better pianist than if I practiced only one hour a day. Practice is tantamount to experience. Practice, experience, are contributors to competence.

By the time President Joe Biden reached the White House he had decades of experience in Washington, decades of practice at politics. No wonder he is a competent president. Conversely, when Donald Trump reached the White House, he had not a single day of experience in Washington, or a single day of practice at politics. No wonder among his deficits as president was complete incompetence.          

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