One of the most pressing challenges in corporate America today is recruiting and training good administrators. Of this there is no doubt. However, executives are still at loggerheads on the characteristics that define a good administrator. There’s a simple reason for this: there isn’t a single definition of a good administrator – what one business needs from an administrator can be the exact opposite of what another needs.

The skill-based approach
However, many companies focus on looking for a stereotyped administrator with certain qualities, a habit that causes them to forget one important detail: the accomplishments needed to perform well in any environment. Skill-based sourcing focuses less on what a person is (characteristics, innate qualities) and more on what they can do: the actual proof of their ability to carry out their work. Skills are developed abilities manifested by effective performance in a specific area despite varying conditions.

For our purposes, the administrator is defined as a person who manages/directs others’ activities and in so doing causes the achievement of specific objectives. This approach posits that efficacy of an administrator is determined by three qualities/skills which can be easily cultivated. These skills are briefly defined in the subsequent paragraphs.

1. Technical skill
For our context, technical skill refers to having comprehension of and expertise in a certain activity; in particular, its processes, procedures, methods and/or techniques. Technical skill requires specialized knowledge, analytical capability and application of specific technique and tools unique to a particular discipline, for instance coding/programming and DBA services. Technical skill is the most concrete of the three, and the easiest to prove for recruitment purposes. It is therefore the most sought-after by a large number of employers. Many on the on-job trainings are intended to develop one’s technical skill.

2. Human skill
For this discussion, again, human skill refers to an administrator’s ability to work efficiently and effectively within a team, and to foster cooperation within the team of which he is in charge.

Technical skill focuses on working of things, while human skill focuses on working with people. Human skill, for recruitment purposes, can be demonstrated by investigating an individual’s perceptions regarding his equals, superiors and subordinates and his/her subsequent behavior towards them.

The skillful individual in this area is aware of his assumptions, beliefs and attitudes towards individuals or groups, and can leverage these to improve his/her performance. He/she can effectively communicate with others in every context, and has discernment concerning other people’s beliefs, perceptions, viewpoints and/or mannerisms which differ from his own.

3. Conceptual skill
Finally, conceptual skill refers to the ability to visualize the enterprise in its entirety, including cognizance of how various organizational functions depend on one another and how changes in any part affect other parts of the organization. Conceptualization extends further to company relations vis-à-vis the community, the industry, and the nation and its political, economic and social forces. An administrator must be able to understand the significance of these elements and act in such a way as to improve the welfare of the company amid the push and pull of various forces acting differently. This is especially important for decision-making.

The three-skill approach mainly emphasizes that good leadership isn’t necessarily innate; it can be developed by moving away from consideration for particular traits and considering usefulness of an individual to his/her tasks.