SOCIAL COMPETENCE AND ORGANIZATIONAL COMPETENCE AS KEY QUALIFICATIONS FOR MANAGERS

Prior to the MOT conference we have carried out a preliminary study, which comprised a series of in-depth interviews with leading Austrian managers and experts.

A look at the results shows a fundamental and increasingly tense discrepancy between what leading managers and experts formulate as requirements for leaders and managers, what they deem particularly important in their own work and what the practices of business schools represent. From the perspective of managers, the following qualifications are crucial (Mayer, Neugebauer Lesjak, & Timel, 2010).

• The capability to develop distance to the immediate issues at hand and to urgent decisions, that is, gaining something like an "inner distance" in order to make better decisions.

• Social competence, not only as an individual competence but the capability to enable social competence collectively and to anchor it in the management team of a company.

• Skills that may look simple, such as learning to ask questions and listen carefully and the capability to individually and collectively establish a connection to the external perception of other related groups.

• The capability for self-reflection.

• Understanding the importance of developing "rules of the game" and being able to contribute to the development of culture-fostering rules.

• Making decisions—as the key operation of a company. This is a core competence of a manager and it often means dealing with complexity and uncertainty and balancing between the opening and the closing of a discussion. This causes tensions which have to be successfully endured as a person, as a team, and as a management system.

• Being able make observations and to process these observations.

• Being able to cooperate in order to react adequately.

• The capability to deal with external environments, as for example with different professional languages, different groups of stakeholders and different cultural settings.

• Enabling learning and developing processes in the organization that cause a difference to one's own perspective as a manager, to the management system and to organizational routines and structures in order to gain an impetus for both personal and organizational development.

In contrast to this, MBA programs often contain (often criticized) propositions and prevailing trends which do not allow participants to acquire the above cited skills. The predominant type of MBA programs is marked by a dominance of teaching and learning elements that stress cognitive know-how and tools. It still neglects the development of social competencies, issues concerning the personal development of managers and the capability of self-reflection.

LEARNING OR EDUCATIONAL BUSINESS

What are the roots of this critically viewed development? I would like to stress two points: Is it the result of the European and Anglo-American research tradition of separating cognitive knowledge from other dimensions, such as personal reflection, social development and the professional reality of companies? For Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, I dare to make this judgment. I can even observe an intensification of this trend, as—for instance—in our own university. The academic, instrumental knowledge is still based on research that is artificially separated from the reality of companies and society. Another reason is the streamlining of programs as part of a business-oriented organization of management education. Mintzberg (2005) and others have expressed very profound criticism of such programs in recent years which is consistent with our observations. Streamlining means selling MBAs worldwide according to the same model. These programs are sold in hubs of management education programs with minor corrections and deviations, and if possible, with a radical modularization in the organization of "learning." Due to the modularization of knowledge for the company, this is a good sell, since it is available in small and differently combined packages.

This way of organizing management education produces programs offered from Calcutta to Canada and from southern Argentina to Germany:

•in the same format,

• with comparable formal standards all over the world,

• in cooperation with a global business of learning technologies

• and run by a globally organized certification business that maintains these standards and is driven by such.

This standardization is often accompanied by modularization. The management education programs are composed of individual self-contained components that can be combined individually. This modularization is feasible only with a focus on cognitive knowledge. The transfer of knowledge is detached from the social process of learning. But the development of social and organizational competence needs learning on three levels. It needs cognitive maps; it needs a processing of the affective relationship with organizations and professional roles; and it needs the development of practical skills and competences. Such competence development requires a continuous learning process, so that educators and trainees can alternately work within these three dimensions. The knowledge is to be connected to processes of self-reflection and with possibilities of practical experimentation. For both a coherent learning group is very important. Processes of self-reflection need trusting relationships. The development of social competence is necessarily a collective learning process.

The business logic of this MBA approach strongly contradicts the concepts underlying responsible leadership. Due to scientific traditions and academic cultures that were and still are very successful in reinforcing the above outlined trend, however, this business logic is very persistent.

If we consider this trend as a business, we have to view it as a crucial point on our agenda. It raises the question of how to apply responsible leadership and the involvement of different stakeholder perspectives in the business of management education.

The master's of science in organization development (MSOD) programs clearly deviate from this trend by suggesting alternatives that attempt to reverse this trend. Let me mention a couple of interesting alternatives. The MSOD-programs of Pepperdine University,[1] Benedictine University[2] or the IFF-program of the University of Klagenfurt,[3]for example, strongly integrate social competence in combination with elements that intensively foster personal development (Grossmann, Scala, & Mayer, 2012). Klaus Scala and his team at the University of Graz and the Center for Social Competence[4] have initiated innovation in Austria and beyond. At the University of Klagenfurt we organize a program titled Social Competence and Organizational Learning for students in all fields of study as a regular constituent of their studies.

We are, however confronted with strongly opposing views and approaches by colleagues of various different disciplines. If social competence continues to be regarded as an add-on for managers it continues to be reduced to the "icing" also in management education. I, however, strongly argue for the urgent need to consider social competence as a core competence and a key-qualification for managers, both in profit and in non-profit organizations.

In this context, reference should be made to the large share of personal development that is necessary to think in terms of responsible leadership, to sense responsible leadership and to gain personal access to it. It requires stability and flexibility, resilience and the ability to manage conflict, as well as a strong willingness to learn and the ability to question oneself. It is about working on one's own identity as a person and as a role-bearer.

The OD tradition in the United States has coined the wonderful concept of the "self as instrument," referring to ways of personal preparation for roles in leadership and management. Finally, we have to rely strongly on ourselves as tools of intervention in leadership communication, in decision making or in conflicts. How can we develop this self as instrument and how can we best support future leaders and experienced practitioners (Cheung-Judge, 2001)?

  • [1] bschool.pepperdine.edu/programs/masters-organization-development/
  • [2] ben.edu/academic_programs/business/GradPrograms/MSMOB/ index.cfm
  • [3] iff.ac.at^oe/content.php?p = 161&lang=de&nr=
  • [4] uni-graz.atyen/cschtm? =
 
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >