Character, Capacity, Competence

Character, capacity, and competence: three elements crucial to succeed wherever we find ourselves in life. They matter for every one, be it young or old.

Character refers to your values, the things important to you: integrity, empathy, selflessness, generosity. It is a measure of how good you are on the inside.

Capacity is your potential ability to contribute to a cause, to the society. It is how much power, strength, or means you have to do something.

Competence is how well you can perform a task based on your knowledge and skill. It is how well you do what you do.

These three determine the effect your life has on others, and your accomplishments.

Character + Capacity + Competence = Accomplishment

What happens where one exists in such poor measure that it is deemed non-existent?

Character + Competence – Capacity = The person has good intentions and know-how (skill) but is hindered from doing the work. Issues may be ill-health, fear, or some other crippling element.

What’s missing? Courage, training, experience, funds, knowledge.

What to do? Expose yourself to more opportunities to contribute, embrace fear, value little beginnings, pursue learning.

Character + Capacity – Competence = The person has good intentions and potential but lacks the know-how to do the work.

What’s missing? Training, skill development, experience.

What to do? Learn, practice deliberately by challenging yourself to do more, and to do better every day. Look for feedback, keep going.

Competence + Capacity – Character = The person has the skill along with internal and external resources but muddles everything up due to a lack of good intentions–the mark of tyrants, manipulators, and other difficult people.

All three situations can be rectified by training, education, exposure, or even love and friendship.

But it takes an extra level of self-awareness and humility to be willing to make a shift in one’s character. It is what happens when you begin to consider the means more important than the end.

Character colours everything we do, that we could possibly do, for better or for worse. And in many instances, except in matters of life or death, the presence of character covers up for a lack of the other two.


This post was inspired by a talk Oby Ezekwesili delivered at the Daystar Excellence in Leadership Conference 2013.

It’s seven years already.

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