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Designing excellent leaders by applying ICF Core Competencies

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Source: COACHING WORLD by Danaiya Tang-u-thaisu| February 15, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is shaping the future of the world as it continues to impact our social, economic, political and technological landscapes. Leaders at all levels have faced the challenges of an unknow situation, which has become the catalyst for them to adapt their role and adopt new skills and competencies to lead their organizations through the uncertainty.

Academic journals and personal coaching experiences indicate that there are three important qualities of an exceptional leader in this uncertain time:

  • Agility: The ability of the organization to adapt quickly or respond rapidly to change.

  • Resilience: The capacity to overcome the disruption, recover and resume to normal functions despite unknown factors.

  • Collaboration: The purposeful connection of people within an organization to work together to achieve business goals. With these qualities and a coaching mindset, leaders can excel even in uncertainty.

The ICF Core Competencies can be used as a guide for designing an excellent leader.

This article aims to highlight the second ICF Core Competency – “Embodies a Coaching Mindset” and approach it from the perspective of a leader to “embody a growth mindset.” ICF defines this competency to mean that an individual “develops and maintains a mindset that is open, curious, flexible and client-centered,” or stakeholder-centered in the case of the leader.

While there are eight behaviors for coaches, I suggest only the following seven behaviors for leaders:

  1. Engages in ongoing learning and development as a leader.

  2. Develops an ongoing reflective practice to enhance own leadership.

  3. Uses awareness of self and one’s intuition to benefit stakeholders.

  4. Develops and maintains the ability to regulate self–

  5. Remains aware of and open to the influence of context and culture on self and others.

  6. Mentally and emotionally prepares when engaging with others.

  7. Seeks help when necessary.


The behavior that directly influence the quality of Agility is “Engages in ongoing learning and development as a leader.” With the uncertain future landscape, leaders who still work with the same skills, same competencies, and same process are likely to face the undeniable difficult situation. For those leaders who are rather open to new learning and ongoing development, it will enable them to be more agile in the way work.


Since environmental factors are uncertain, business may be negatively impacted. Leaders need to overcome the circumstances and resume to lead the organization as fast as possible. Behavior number 2, 3, and 4 are the key to the quality of Resilience.

“Develops an ongoing reflective practice to enhance own leadership” empowers leaders to reflect about themselves. This includes self-reflection on the being; like when dealing with the uncertain conditions, or the leadership practice in leading the team through challenged surroundings. By doing so, leaders will learn about themselves and as a result will be more self-aware of their own reaction to situations.

“Uses awareness of self and one’s intuition to benefit stakeholders” explains about leaders using their own sensitivity, which may harvest from the experiences in the field to benefit related parties in the fast-changing environment.

“Develops and maintains the ability to regulate self–emotions” is very important to hold leaders grounded and not lose themselves in the failure or blunder, so they are able to manage the situation properly.


Currently, working unaccompanied possibly hinders survival and growth, therefore, collaborating with others is a vital quality for leaders. Behavior number 5, 6, and 7 are about strengthening collaboration.

“Remains aware of and open to the influence of context and culture on self and others” truly upholds leaders who work with people from different generations, cultures and backgrounds. When leaders apply this behavior, they embrace and better utilize differences.

“Mentally and emotionally prepares when engaging with others”, supports leaders to be well-composed. Leaders are willing to listen to others regardless of the differences and willing to share their thought in a calm and pleasant manner, which also creates a welcoming working environment. Prior to a meeting, leaders allocate time to get themselves ready, so they can achieve the best collaboration in the meeting.

Lastly, leaders who can “Seek help when necessary” shows their humility and authenticity. It opens up the opportunity for others who know more to collaborate and also allows team members to demonstrate their potential.

Leaders don’t need to apply all seven items at once; they may prioritize the most needed behavior for the present situation or the most fit for the organization. When those items become natural to leaders, then choose the next worthwhile items to practice. At the end, the competency of growth mindset will enhance leadership competencies and positively impact organizational survival and growth.


Danaiya Tang-u-thaisuk is an executive and leadership coach, author and speaker based in Bangkok, Thailand. She believes in human potential and that’s why she is passionate to taking leaders to another level. She also specializes in leadership communication. She is a co-founder of and currently she is on the leadership team of the ICF Bangkok Chapter

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