May 9, 2022 2 min read

Managing transitions and domains of competence

Level up your leadership. Each edition is a 3 min read, and contains an original article summary, an actionable snippet, a set of reflection prompts, and a reading recommendation.​

Original Article Summary

Changing roles can be difficult. However, going from a specialist to a generalist role even more so. A classic example is that of a high performer being promoted to lead a team.

There are specific challenges to folks from highly specialized backgrounds whether it is engineering, software, accounting, or even medicine.

There is a certain way of thinking in the hard sciences that tends to work against us when moving into a more generalist role.

One powerful tool that highlights and helps identify blindspots during such transitions is the Flaherty/Habermas domains of competence model.

It identifies some of the key differences between domains rooted in the hard sciences vs those dominated by the social sciences. Leadership and management fall squarely in the human domain/social sciences.

I do a deep dive into what the model delineates and how you can use it to understand your blindspots.

I am not a believer in prescriptions. What works better is understanding the terrain itself, where we can then devise our own techniques.

The domains of competence model helps in doing just that.

Click here for the entire article.

Actionable Snippet

In Master your Next Move, Michael Watkins outlines a competency model consisting of seven shifts that leaders make when going from a functional manager to a business unit manager role.

These shifts however are equally applicable in various roles and even when we are not in the middle of a transition.

The seven shifts are:

From specialist to generalist.​

From analyst to integrator.​

From tactician to strategist.​

From bricklayer to architect.​

From warrior to diplomat.​

From problem-solver to agenda-setter.​

From support cast to lead role.

The trick is to see them not as a dichotomy but as a continuum from one extreme to the other. The reality of work life is that it’s never so nicely delineated. Work happens in the grey.

We can get into ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior arising out of habits that skew us towards one end of the spectrum.

These seven frameworks can be used as a reality check to correct imbalances. Doing it regularly can be a good practice to identify any blind spots or opportunities that we might be overlooking.

Reflection Questions

  • In the list above, what situation is applicable to your particular situation/role?
  • Where are we on the continuum?
  • What does our role actually need?
  • How might our biases be unknowingly limiting us?
  • Could they be limiting our careers?

Leader’s Library

This week’s reading recommendation is a Harvard Business Review article by Michael Watkins that goes further into the seven transitions outlined above.

It's titled How Managers become Leaders.

The article is a good introduction to the the seven frameworks and key ideas in the book.

That’s it for this edition. Have a great week!

– Sheril Mathews

Sheril Mathews
I am an executive/leadership coach. Before LS, I worked for 20 years in corporate America in various technical & leadership roles. Have feedback? You can reach me at
Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Leading Sapiens.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.