By Edwin M Valladares, MS, RPSGT

Competence is, “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.”1 To move from a technical position to a leadership position you will need to be competent in what you are already doing and in what you will be doing as a leader. Competence in leadership is a broad field that can’t be covered in a small article such as this, but the tips covered here are foundational.

Given the definition above, you must conduct all you do with excellence. Many techs fall into the pitfall of thinking that because they are charismatic they don’t need to do things with excellence. In the end, if you handle what you currently do with excellence, you will do things with excellence later – this is how you are being measured. Moreover, competent leadership involves growing as a person. This can include formal graduate training which is required in some sectors (e.g. MBA or MPH). But you should start by meeting with a mentor in your field and asking them to evaluate you as a leader by telling you what you do well now and where you need to improve. This will take a lot of self-control, but don’t rush to defend yourself; just write each item down. Ask for examples of each point that is given to you, so you understand what they mean. Take some time and think over each point on your own time and come up with a plan to grow. Then schedule another meeting and report back with your action plan. If you disagree with a certain point, this is the time to discuss it. Maybe it wasn’t fleshed out well enough. Lastly, read and read. The more you learn about leadership, the sharper you will become. My initial undergraduate and graduate training was in the sciences and I didn’t receive any leadership or interpersonal training at the time. So, I found that when I read about leadership I was able to identify what I was lacking.

Moreover, your leadership will be tested by the decisions you have to make and the stressors that come along. A good way to start gauging yourself and growing in these areas is in your personal life. If you tend to make bad decisions, find out why. If you tend to explode with your family when you are under stress find a way to change this. Don’t think that because Steve Jobs treated people badly you can get away with poor behavior too. You will face these situations as a leader, so what better time to grow than now.

Edwin M. Valladares is the Manger of the Sleep Disorders Center at Keck Medical Center of USC where he manages the sleep clinic, sleep lab, coordinates the USC Center for Sleep Health Using Bioengineering (SleepHuB), and lectures to Sleep Medicine and Neurophysiology fellows. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Life Pacific University (formerly Life Pacific College) where he teaches the Integrated Life Science Laboratory and is a Board Member of the California Sleep Society (2016-2020).



  1. Google Dictionary., 5/26/2019.