Welcome to the second volume of the Management Development Forum. This volume is comprised of exciting new research and thinking on managerial competencies and leadership. Some of the papers in this volume focus on the identification of competencies (e.g., Donovan and Whitehouse identify nine “strands” of competency in the public sector and Whetzel et al., describe an exciting application of competency modeling at the U.S. Postal Service that identifies 31 executive competencies in that environment). One gives attention to the assessment of them (Belasen). Others focus on their development (e.g., Mirabile, Belasen). This volume also treats organizational versus individual responsibility for their development (e.g., Parry reflects on the responsibilities of the human resource function to motivate and generate competencies throughout all levels of the organization while Donovan and Whitehouse find that self-development is a critical leadership competency.) As well, Chung presents an exciting case study in which he illuminates cultural impacts on the perception of non-assertiveness of East Asian Americans, bearing on the formal assessments of their leadership potential, while Thomas demonstrates the continuing psychological impediments to multi-cultural leadership and the need for an integrated model of leadership to keep pace with workforce changes. Brown and Cole present a very helpful study on the proper timing of the use of 360-degree feedback instruments.
This research is remarkable for its energy and quality, but it is remarkable for another reason, as well. Whether focused on the identification, assessment, or development of managerial or leadership competencies, or on environmental factors impeding such activities, all current research takes as a given both the legitimacy and mutability of managerial and leadership competencies.
We should recall that this was not always the case. In the immediate post-war period, executive recruitment was dominated by the view that “leaders were born, not made.” A narrow range of affective characteristics defined the personality of a successful candidate for the senior executive’s office. Precursors of today’s diversity training were already in place, as is pointed out by Professor Thomas in this volume, but during that time such training was aimed at meeting statutory, affirmative-action obligations, not the development of multi-cultural managers. Class, gender, and race biases were legitimized by “personality theory” and inductive (empirical) models of successful management—models that could do nothing other than conclude that the characteristics of those in power were the best predictors of management success.
During the ‘60s and early ‘70s, the increasing success of U.S.-based multinationals overseas lead to apocalyptic pronouncements by European analysts that European industry was falling irreparably behind their U.S. counterparts because of American management superiority (Servan-Schrieber, 1968). European managers, who characteristically obeyed the “Club” rules, could not compete with American managers who had begun to challenge the view that one’s market share was a matter of entitlement. During this time, the economics of corporation diversification and expansionary multinationalism dominated management thinking. Hence, it is not surprising that a disciplined and organized drive to accomplish large-scale, wide scope and efficiency in corporate operations became the measure of proficient management leadership. Management theorists were already aware of competing management models— “rational goal,” “human relations,” and “open systems” (Quinn, 1988)—but had not yet begun to appreciate the lack of mutual exclusivity among them. Successful international competitors had shifted management emphasis from a control (partly “rational goal”) focus to an external (largely “open systems”) focus, without an implicit organizational calculus that measured the losses as well as the gains to such a single-minded reorientation. Perhaps because of the dominant influence of strategic consultants external to the organization during this time, the need for balanced development and application of management competence (in the internal as well as the external spheres) was not yet on the corporate radar screen.
In this volume, Brown and Cole cite Prochaska, DiClemente and Norcross’s (1992) piece on the stages of change, illustrating how identification of a problem must precede a need for change. Following the enduring recession of the mid-’70s, the encroaching convergence of our international competitors, and the recognition that the world had become a more changing, variable place, U.S. businesses did indeed recognize that U.S. industry had a problem, and hence U.S. management faced a need for change. At about this time, management thinking began to recognize the possibility that no one management model is exclusively superior to another, rather the competing tensions of management (internal versus external, flexbility versus control) implied that an inclusive model of management may yield better results (Quinn, 1988).
A concurrent theme during the ‘70s and ‘80s was the growing recognition that women and minority employees and managers represented a diverse set of talents and perspectives on work and management and that no single view could be established as being demonstrably superior to another. It was a short step from recognizing a variety of management styles to appreciating the possibility that effective management incorporated aspects of all these diverse approaches, that competent management was multi-dimensional.
By 1990, these two strands of thinking began to merge: management theorists began tinkering with models in which competent managers maintained a quiver of various arrows on which they selectively drew depending upon the nature of the management challenge they faced. As virtually all managers are more skilled in some areas than in others, the assessment and development of managers became paramount. In the second strand of thinking, workforce diversity advocates were simultaneously advancing the proposition that without intervention, each individual manager can only be expected to bring a single perspective to management. If we believe in the superiority of multi-dimensional management perspectives, as such advocates generally did believe, it followed, therefore, that effective managers must be trained in alternative perspectives.
During the ‘90s we got to work. The identification, measurement, assessment, and development of competencies, the locus of responsibility for their development, applications of tools, and the challenges associated with making real organizations fertile sources of personal and professional growth—all these tasks and more are underway. We hope this volume contributes tangibly to these important efforts.
Michael V. Fortunato, PhD
Director of Executive Education
Empire State College, State University of New York
Prochaska, J., DiClemente, C., and Norcross, J. (1992). In search of how people change: Applications to addictive behaviors. American Psychologist, (9), 1102-1114.
Quinn, R. E. (1988). Beyond rational management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Servan-Schreiber, J. J. (1968) The American challenge. NY: Atheneum.