Not only does the increasing momentum of organizations which was mentioned earlier bring with it multifaceted, temporary organizational structures, but management functions are also being distributed among an ever-widening circle of experts. Experts and managers must increasingly take into their own hands tasks relating to general organizational design, which means doing something for the entire organization. They must translate strategies into concrete processes, devise new working structures (as temporary organizational structures) and lead correspondingly temporary teams. Experts are increasingly often challenged, in addition to their core tasks, to provide comprehensive results in other fields. Bolden (2011) has recently elaborated the concept of "distributed leadership" for this phenomenon. Leadership is understood not as an assigned function but as an activity which is can be performed by every member of the organization. It is expected that specifically more "matrixed" and "hybrid" types of organizations may increasingly build on this leadership approach (Lobnig & Untermarzoner, 2012).

For this reason team leaders and experts are in need of more general management skills—not just strategic thinking, but above all the ability to deal with complexity. They must understand whether a problem relates to a person, a team, to strategy or process management; this calls for "multi-diagnosis," that is, the ability to think simultaneously on various levels and in various disciplines while treating these as coequals, in order to find the appropriate problem-solving action. This capability has traditionally only been expected from top management.

It has been observed that top managers and management teams today feel overextended when leadership tasks may only be delegated to the second level of management. However, when successful young managers (so-called "high potentials") excel, they feel overwhelmed after a short time, because they are quickly assigned all the challenging tasks ("Give that special project to Tim; he has proved himself again and again.") Here the perspective of distributed leadership is trend-setting. The requirement, however, is knowledge within the organization about who has what potential—and above all, that the people who are involved have this knowledge themselves. When consistently implemented, distributed leadership means a role change for top management, who move from being leadership providers to being those who maintain an overview of the various leadership activities as well as determining and coordinating initiatives. A potential assessment, it its methodical approach and with its own mindset, must pay attention to these changes. It requires anticipation of future necessary potentials, even when the organization presently cannot consciously name them.


An organizational development-oriented system of potential assessment must differentiate between capabilities, attitudes, and metacompetences. This has to do with contributions to the function and the role itself (capabilities and attitudes) and with contributions to the organization as a complete system (metacompetences). This differentiation is especially important for organizations, which must react to changing environments not only quickly but also appropriately in relation to the business as well as to the process design.

Definition of terms: Capabilities are those behavioral patterns, which someone can produce when they are necessary for a certain task. Attitude covers a person's emotional and cognitive position (Schreyogg & Conrad, 2006) in relation to a task: the will to do something and the conviction that it makes sense. The attitude gives the behavior a purpose and makes it sustainable. Capabilities and attitudes together result in what we call "competence": the ability, which is linked to the will to do something. Practice clearly shows that attitudes shape organizational culture more strongly than capabilities do. Organizational culture consists of symbols and manifested values, and most especially of emotional and the cognitive attitudes and basic assumptions of key personalities who determine the essential parameters of the organizational design of an organization (Schein, 1999).

Of late there has been an increasing necessity for comprehensive competences, which are not directly related to the tasks of the function or role. This becomes essential particularly when organizations consciously convert to process and project management. Metacompetences, for example the inner orientation to the whole and not only to a person's limited area of responsibility, contribute to an organization's overall development.

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