Competency Based Leadership Training

Competency based learning is a training model that focuses on outcomes that translate into effectiveness in the professional disciplines. This learning model is commonly used in vocational training, technical training, medical training or any areas where the focus is on skills used to perform specific tasks.  Competency based learning can be contrasted with both time based and credential based learning.  

Most academic models stress measuring learning using the categories of time spent, credits earned and tests based on the recall of knowledge.  Competency based learning is a learning system based on a predetermined set of competencies, assessment of the learner based on those competencies, development of a learning track unique to each learner, evaluation of the learner’s progress and testing of the learner in an actual working context.

There are several clear advantages of a competency based learning model:

A. Competency based learning recognizes the leader’s skills and experiences.

The starting point in the competency based model is not a predetermined program that a student must complete to receive a degree or other recognition. The starting point in this model is the assessment of the candidate’s character, knowledge, skills and experience for the purpose of determining what the candidate is missing so that a development process can be specifically designed for the candidate.

B. Competency based learning is focused on what the leader needs.

In this sense the time element of the process is not a predetermined number of semesters or years of education. The time spent in this process depends on the level of the candidate’s development as a leader. More mature or experienced candidates will take less time to complete the program because they can focus on what they need and not have to give time to areas and subjects where they already demonstrate proficiency. Being able to focus on what is needed also has the advantage of allowing the candidate focus on areas where increased effectiveness is necessary for their leadership development rather than repeating things where they already demonstrate having a high degree of expertise.

C. Competency based learning focuses on learning while doing, rather than a mere academic emphasis.

It is also best if a candidate is involved in ministry at a leadership level that is appropriate to their current level of proficiency in character, knowledge, skills and experience. It is better for them to learn “on the job” in real situations, being mentored, and getting actual experience as opposed to hypothetical learning in a contrived learning environment. A competency based focus along with being involved in ministry leadership allows candidates to contribute in meaningful ways as they are going through the training process. It also communicates the idea that continuous training and learning are an integral part of ministry leadership. One of the current realities of ministry is the fact that more leaders are dropping out than are being deployed. Competency based leadership training helps to address this issue by having leaders involved in ministry during the training process while having the benefit of experienced mentors to help guide them along the way.

D. Competency based learning aligns preparation with experience and proficiency.

Competency based training also has the advantage of deploying leaders who have been carefully observed and evaluated on a very personal level as opposed to a typical graduate of a theological educational program that is released into ministry upon graduation, but does not necessarily have the appropriate experience that prepares them for the task. A serious barrier to effective, sustainable leadership is the imbalance that often occurs between a leader’s preparation and experience. Some have ample education and training, but lack experience. Others are thrust into positions for which they have little training or educational preparation. A competency based approach emphasizes a balance between preparation and proficiency compared to their level of responsibility. Keeping this balance in mind and applying the practices learned in a competency based system will allow a leader to be effective as well as durable.