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Cannon Health Care Consulting and Education

....unlocking your future



Leadership and Your Educational Future

Posted by cannonhealthcare on March 29, 2010 at 12:48 AM

 Author: Annette Cannon, PhD, MA, RN, MSN



            What is the new skills-based model of organizational leadership? How does this apply to your current organization and professional life?

            Katz’s (1974) seminal article on the skills approach to leadership suggested that leadership (i.e., effective administration) is based on three skills: technical, human, and conceptual. The technical skill derives from specific knowledge or competence in regards to a specific type or area of work, along with knowing the necessary information about the organization and how it operates. In contrast, human skill is more about the ability to work with people, rather than things. It is a set of skills that requires the worker to know about human behavior, techniques in working with groups, effectively influencing others with a high level of ability to relate to others. Last, the conceptual skills are what allow the worker to think through and formulate all types of ideas, which is said to be a skill that can be learned. Basically, this approach implies that there are many people who can become leaders, especially if they can learn from their experiences (Rowe,2007).

           Katz explains that where one is in an organization is determined how important their skills are. How this fits into organizational leadership is that a supervisor would find having technical skills as an important part of their job, whereas upper and middle management would not. Interpersonal skill is needed at all levels of management, whereas conceptual skill may be less important for lower management, it is still important to be promoted to a higher level, so it is to the workers advantage to learn it (Rowe, 2007). This can be applied in my workplace on different levels. As a nurse, you would need a blending of all three skills to perform your job, technical for having the knowledge to perform duties and within guidelines of your license, human is needed to deal with patients and families, along with being able to delegate orders to those within your team, and conceptual in that a nurse must be able to have the whole picture to be able to understand different concepts and approaches to care and diagnosis.

          However, at the same time, the nurse who is supervisor may not physically use the human skill, but must have knowledge of all three to perform the job, while the technician may have to only grasp the human skill and can learn the technical and conceptual. All three are important though for the job to function effectively and everyone to have a leader within.

In the early 1990’s, led by Mark Mumford, the U.S. Army and the Defense Department took on a human performance model to look at competencies, attitudes and what things drive performance. The skills model or Capability model that was developed consisted of three different components: Individual Attributes, Competencies, and Outcome, which all feed into each other. Individual attributes, being different from competencies, were described as intelligence, acquired intelligence, motivation and personality which had an affect on the organization. They noted that competencies were the heart of the model and involved skills at problem solving, social judgment skills and knowledge. Outcomes related to the success of the person towards a task, according to their attributes and competencies. So without the ability to solve problems, or be able to learn knowledge about the task, or use good social judgment skills, the outcome will not be successful.

        On the other hand, you can have all of these competencies and not have the motivation or personality to succeed but can be taught intelligence over time. This applies to my current organization in that these leadership capabilities can be learned over time through experience and education/training. In nursing, everyone is considered capable of learning to be a leader. The focus is on how to be effective by using your knowledge, problem-solving skills and social judgment skills.

        In nursing, it also involves use of evidence-based learning from which to base decisions and nursing practice on. The (heart of the model) skills of the nurse can address many organizational problems, while learning and gaining more experience will allow the nurse to increase their conceptual ideas to address more complex organizational problems. In the professional realm, obtaining more education with a Master’s degree will allow the nurse to work at a higher level within the organization to address the issues, while still needing to maintain skills, knowledge and judgment to be able to guide and teach the other nurses.



McClelland, D.C. (1973). Testing for competence rather than for intelligence. American

Psychologist, 28, 1-14.


Northouse, P. (2004). Leadership Practice and Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA.:

Sage Publications. Retrieved January 12, 2009 from


Rowe, W.G.. (2007). Cases in Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Retrieved January 12, 2009 from

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