Big Ideas

HBR: The Meta-Competency for Leading through Disruption

Since the turn of the century, our world has become increasingly chaotic and complex. Many leaders have struggled to navigate this environment of constant change, continuous disruption, and unexpected crises. Many organizations see this widespread inability as a talent crisis that only adds to the volatility of their operating environment. Fortunately, this is one crisis for which we have a ready solution.

Research that we conducted in the early stages of the COVID outbreak revealed that versatility—the ability to read and respond to change with a wide repertoire of complementary skills and behaviors—was the key to effectively leading organizations through that sudden and unexpected shock. Research before and after the pandemic indicates that it is playing a more decisive role now than in the “before times.” When the next crisis hits—whether it affects all organizations around the globe or its impact is limited to your company—we can expect versatile leadership to make the difference in how well organizations respond.

As versatile leaders are able to choose which skills and behaviors to apply to specific situations, we define it as a meta-competency. The versatile leader knows when to rely on their strengths and when to prevent overusing their strengths by choosing a more appropriate response. They are aware of their gaps and shortcomings and act to overcome them. They not only possess a more complete range of skills and behaviors they also know when to apply them—and to what degree—to meet the moment. 

But versatility is rare, and we believe that scarcity is at the heart of today’s talent crisis. Of the 24,000+ leaders we have assessed since 2013, fewer than one in 10 possess this meta-competency. The good news is that the 90+ percent of leaders who lack versatility today can develop greater versatility for tomorrow. Versatility is not a fixed trait and there is no particular personality profile that defines a versatile leader. Rather, versatility is a learned capability. We believe that the talent crisis can be solved by developing more versatile leaders.

In a recent article for HBR, Rob Kaiser, along with his colleagues, Ryne Sherman and Robert Hogan of Hogan Assessment Systems, take a deep dive into the research behind versatility as the meta-competency for leading in chaotic times, explore the paradoxical links between personality and the development of versatility, and outline the principles that govern how leaders learn to become more versatile. 

When you’re ready to start developing more versatile leaders, please get in touch—and let us show you a clear path out of today’s talent crisis.

More Big Ideas

Browse By Topic

Browse By Source