Leadership competencies

Students at the top of a mountainDear Students,

As a public institution, the University of Washington creates and disseminates knowledge for the greater good. We address contemporary and stubborn challenges. We dive head first into the statement, “I don’t know” and begin to find solutions to big, interconnected problems: sustainability, global health, urbanization, social responsibility, economic justice to name a few. Part of our responsibility is to pay serious attention to these and other leadership issues that sustain a healthy democracy.

As you progress through the University, we want you to learn about the grand challenges of our time and of all time. We want you to find what you care about. And we want you to act on your knowledge and passion.  We want to know what grabs your heart and shouts, “Urgent!” In what way will, or must, you change the world?

We want to know what grabs your heart and shouts, “Urgent!”

Check out the list below—it is the knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors we think you should learn to exercise effective and socially responsible leadership. What do you already know and how do you want to grow?


The Husky Leadership Initiative



  • Know their guiding values, motivations, passions, purpose, and ethics.
  • Increase their self-awareness and understanding of your leadership styles, strengths, weaknesses, stressors, and emotional and physiological reaction to stress.
  • Define leadership for themselves and identify where they are as leaders.
  • Understand leadership theory to deliberate and contemplate their leadership efforts objectively.


  • Increase their self-expectations.
  • Be willing to take risks.
  • Exhibit a strong work ethic.
  • Commit to an ongoing examination of their social location/identity/power and its influence on their engagement.
  • Develop confidence and perseverance.
  • Embody care, empathy, and a sense of responsibility for the well-being of all people.
  • Be committed to equity for all people.
  • Value and seek out the inclusion of diverse people, perspectives, and ideas.
  • Develop a zest or passion for life!


Intrapersonal skills necessary to have strong self-awareness and the ability for self-management:
  • Reflect and critically evaluate themselves as leaders.
  • Manage their emotions and reactions to stress.
  • Set goals and identify strategies and pathways to achieving those goals.
  • Organize their lives and responsibilities.
  • Manage and cope with change and uncertainty.
  • Maintain a healthy way of life.
Interpersonal skills necessary to work effectively with others:
  • Communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.
  • Exhibit active and effective listening.
  • Make persuasive arguments for their ideas.
  • Manage people, delegate tasks, trust in others, identify the strengths and weaknesses of others.
  • Have empathy and respect for others.
  • Use communication and decision making skills necessary to resolve conflicts.
  • Understand ethical practices and be able to make ethical decisions.
Organizational skills necessary to accomplish goals while working with others:
  • Conceptualize and organize ideas in order to actualize programs, events, projects, etc.
  • Implement and execute ideas, programs, events, projects, etc.
  • Effectively and efficiently manage resources.
  • Build community.
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of their team.
  • Identify potential in others.
  • Understand their audience.
  • Maintain the balance between big picture items and tasks necessary to achieve goals.
  • Be a productive and engaged follower.
  • Adapt to change.
  • Collaborate with others.
Professional development skills important to the longevity of their leadership practice as well as the longevity of their organizations after they depart:
  • Develop a network of support for themselves and their organizations.
  • Build relationships with mentors.
  • Productively mentor others.


  • Identify opportunities to lead.
  • Take initiative and action to engage in leadership in a variety of settings.
  • Push themselves beyond their comfort zone.
  • Demonstrate ethical and professional behaviors as a leader.
  • Think clearly in times of ambiguity and navigate change effectively.
  • Lead for the common good of others.
  • Hold themselves accountable for both successes and failures.
  • Constantly apply, evaluate, and modify their leadership practice.
  • Be humble.

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