University of Minnesota Leadership Challenges

We are all Leaders

At the University of Minnesota, we believe everyone is a leader. Some people lead teams of researchers finding cures for diseases, others focus on excellence in financial accounting, or foster understanding with building maintenance peers. No matter where you are at the University you are the leader of your own work and everyone’s work helps to carry out the University’s mission. 

Leadership Challenges

As we work each day to carry out our mission, we must also meet these challenges as leaders:

  • Equity and Diversity
  • Results
  • Vision
  • Engagement
  • Collaboration
  • Accountability

The more effective we are at meeting these challenges, the more robust our work becomes.

Each leadership challenge can be addressed with a specific set of skills or key competencies. These key competencies can be explained by specific behaviors. All of this is explained in leadership challenges below.  

This framework provides the foundation for all of our leadership development programs.

Take the Leadership Challenges Self-Assessment 

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you to set and achieve your goals. The self-assessment below allows you to rate yourself against key behaviors behind each leadership challenge so you know where to focus your development efforts. Higher scores highlight areas where you can improve in order to support your goals.

Individual Contributor/Foundational Level

Interactive Self Assessment

Printable Competency List

Leadership Challenges Framework

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Equity and Diversity

Creating a strong organizational climate and structure of access and inclusion as the critical elements and core values in achieving excellence.

Key Competencies Behaviors
Demonstrates an Open Mind Demonstrates an understanding of how their own values and assumptions about equity, inclusivity, and diversity influence decision-making. Identifies and openly discusses own and others’ social and cultural identities and differences relevant to work. Is open to dialogue and conflict resolution around different perspectives.
Increases Access, Diversity & Inclusion Recognizes and communicates the importance of diversity and inclusivity. Advocates for and supports inclusive practices in the workplace. Engages in discussions around addressing barriers to accessibility and inclusivity in the workplace. Supports efforts to recruit, hire, and retain diverse colleagues.



Finding ways to drive and support innovation while increasing the efficient use of resources

Key Competencies Behaviors
Innovates Analyzes problems and processes in new ways that lead to innovative ideas and approaches. Seeks to understand problems with curiosity and an open mind. Generates creative solutions to long-standing problems.
Drives Efficiency Supports others who advocate for ways to improve existing processes and methods. Tracks progress toward goals, using data, metrics, or other relevant sources of information. Comes up with practical ideas for making work more efficient.



Setting the right direction, navigating difficult decisions, and aligning resources with priorities

Key Competencies Behaviors
Thinks Strategically Looks beyond the surface to identify underlying issues and root causes of problems. Understands how own work is connected to broader goals. Focuses on important issues and projects without getting distracted by unimportant or low priority details.
Aligns Resources Aligns own activities with broader goals and priorities. Organizes and prioritizes work based on most important goals. Creates practical, effective plans and timelines for achieving goals.



Building and sustaining high performing teams and departments and retaining top talent

Key Competencies Behaviors
Selects and Develops Talent Sets challenging goals and high expectations for self and others. Provides useful and constructive feedback to others to help them improve. Readily uses own knowledge and experience to help others improve and learn.
Motivates and Inspires Others Motivates others by helping them understand how and why their work is an important part of achieving a broader purpose. Demonstrates an appreciation for others’ efforts and contributions. Helps people from all cultural backgrounds to be successful.



Working well as part of a team and collaborating with and influencing a diverse range of individuals and groups

Key Competencies Behaviors
Builds Relationships Maintains productive relationships with others even when faced with conflict. Proactively keeps others informed of important updates, information, and issues. Listens respectfully and openly to others regardless of level, position, or background.
Is Resilient and Courageous Responds to unexpected problems by focusing on identifying solutions rather than dwelling on the problem or waiting for others to solve it. Expresses ideas directly and with confidence. Stands by well-reasoned decisions, even if they are not initially well received by others.



Establishing and maintaining a reputation for integrity and personal accountability

Key Competencies Behaviors
Operates with Integrity Takes ownership for mistakes without blaming others. Consistently follows through on commitments. Takes responsibility for own performance and the success of projects they are involved in.
Learns and Adapts Demonstrates self-awareness of own strengths and development needs. Looks for ways to learn new skills and knowledge to increase own effectiveness. Seeks out feedback and listens without becoming defensive.