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Education competencies: Directing others

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success. View all competencies.


Establishes clear directions; sets stretching goals and assigns responsibilities that bring out the best work from people; establishes a good work plan and distributes the workload appropriately.

Proficiency level

Level 1: Basic Level 2: Intermediate Level 3: Advanced Level 4: Expert
Gives directions and sets objectives Is good at establishing clear directions Composes and conveys excellent instructions Is a master communicator while giving direction and vision to groups and organizations
Sets goals Sets clear goals Sets clear, stretching goals and assigns responsibilities that bring out the best work from people Inspires others to do things the most effective way based on the group’s collective knowledge of patterns of success
Distributes workload Distributes workload fairly Establishes a good work plan and distributes the workload appropriately Skillfully crafts an effective work plan and adjusts the plan as needed during implementation
Is available for dialogue with others on work plans Engages in two-way dialogue with others about work plans Actively encourages dialogue about work plans Applies learning from past work plan successes and failures to develop more-effective future work plans

Overdoing directing others

  • May be overly controlling
  • May have a chilling effect on others, discouraging input and ideas; may be intolerant of disagreements
  • May only delegate pieces and not share the larger picture
  • May be overly directive and stifle creativity and initiative

Essential questions

To improve your proficiency, ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis:
  • Have I clearly communicated our team goals and plan to all members?
  • Are others executing the plan according to my expectations?
  • Who have I involved in establishing our plan to reach our goals?
  • Have I appropriately delegated all the tasks that I can today?
  • Am I avoiding a confrontation about a problem or with a person that I must address today?
  • Who is good at directing others that I should observe and learn from?
To avoid overdoing directing others, ask yourself:
  • Am I being overly specific in giving directions and not allowing the creative process to work?
  • Am I seen by others as a “dictator?”
  • Am I expecting too much from others and setting unrealistic, lofty goals?

Interview questions

  • Share a time when it was critical that you provide clear instructions, direction, or vision to an individual or group. What was the situation and to whom were you communicating? How did you ensure that your communications were clear and understood by the individual or group?
  • Describe a time when you used formal goals or objectives to inspire others to achieve their best. Which goals related to their normal jobs and which were “stretch” assignments? What additional actions did you take to inspire others to achieve?
  • Sometimes, distributing the workload among multiple people can be challenging. Describe a situation in which you were skillful in crafting a work plan that distributed the workload appropriately. How did you determine the distribution? To what extent did you have to adjust your initial plan? What were the results?
  • Explain how you have communicated with others about their work plans. Please share one or two examples related to a specific person(s).

Learning on the job

Learning on your own: These self-development remedies will help you build your skill(s).
  • Do an inventory of your personal strengths and weaknesses: Get input from others about what they appreciate about you or would like to see you change. Ask for opinions on what you do and don’t do well.
  • Do an inventory of common management techniques and practices: Get input from others about how well you match up with the best techniques.
  • Do a communication check on yourself: Assess how well and how consistently you inform, listen, explain, and get back to people.
  • Do a delegation check: Assess if you delegate and empower others appropriately. Periodically ask others to give you a list of things you do that could be done equally well by others.
  • Adapt your style, if necessary, to deal with others: Steer clear of tactics or actions that devalue others, play favorites, or demonstrate prejudice or unnecessary emotion. Manage to spend time with others.
  • Be organized and make plans: Lay out work and tasks clearly, setting realistic goals and objectives to guide others.
  • Share the credit: Celebrate successes with others, and use the word “we” more than “I.”
  • Confront problems directly and quickly: Deal with things before they fester.
  • Relate to other people: Get work done through others rather than doing it all yourself.
  • Study models: Seek out one or two people whom others view as successful, and study them. Incorporate their best behaviors into your own.
Learning from develop-in-place assignments: These part-time develop-in-place assignments will help you build your skill(s).
  • Assign a project to a group with a tight deadline.
  • Temporarily manage a group opposed to an unpopular change or project.
  • Temporarily manage a group of low-competence people in a task they couldn’t do themselves.
  • Assemble a temporary group of diverse people to accomplish a difficult task.
  • Build a multifunctional team to tackle a common problem.
Learning more from your plan: These additional remedies will help make this development plan more effective for you.
  • Learning to learn better:
    • Examine why you judge people the way you do. List the people you like or dislike and why. Discern what you have in common with them.
  • Learning from experience, feedback, and other people:
    • Learn from those in authority. Distance yourself from your feelings, and analyze what they do and do not do well. Choose to imitate the successful behavior.
    • Learn from interviewing others. Ask what, how, and why they do what they do, where they learned it, and how they keep it current and relative.
    • Learn by observing others. Objectively study what these people do.
    • Get feedback from your direct reports. Set a positive tone, and don’t retaliate if you don’t agree.
    • Learn from limited staff. Look for ways to bring out the best in others who may lack skills or experience. Motivate by being a positive force, even in negative situations, and by giving feedback. Recognize when it is time to stop trying something, and start over.
  • Learning from courses:
    • Take a supervisory course. Review the common practices of effective supervision.
    • Take a course designed to offer feedback, such as how to develop negotiating skills or influence people.

Recommended readings

  • Daniels, Aubrey C.Bringing Out the Best in People. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994.
  • Ginnodo, Bill.The Power of Empowerment. Arlington Heights, IL: Pride Publications, Inc., 1997.
  • Hawkins, David R.Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior. Carson, CA: Hay House, 2002.
  • Lumsden, Gay, and Donald L. Lumsden.Communicating in Groups and Teams: Sharing Leadership. New York: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999.
  • Raelin, Joseph A.Creating Leaderful Organizations: How to Bring Out Leadership in Everyone. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2003.
  • Reck, Ross R.The X-Factor: Getting Extraordinary Results from Ordinary People. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001.
  • Zenger, John H., and Joseph Folkman.The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 2002.

Next steps

Copyright © 1992, 1996, 2001-2003 by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This work is derived from the LEADERSHIP ARCHITECT® Competency Library developed and copyrighted by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo for Lominger Limited, Inc.

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success.