January 4, 2010
What really matters: Managing the people aspect of your organization
By: Jodi Blom
Of the myriad studies conducted on determining what great leaders and managers do differently than their average counterparts, the common denominator is the ability to relate to and communicate with people. Major leadership and management researchers (Bernard Bass, John Kotter, Rosabeth Moss-Kanter, Morgan McCall, Michael Lombardo, Edwin Locke, to name just a few) state that great leaders and managers recognize that it is the efforts and strengths of people that make the organization great. Possessing the skills to motivate people to do their best, sincerely care about the needs of their people, and possess interpersonal savvy, including communication and conflict resolution skills are paramount.
Unfortunately, the emphasis of many management training efforts have been in the areas of managing the tasks, setting priorities, problem solving, and organizing. The good news is, according to Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo, managers have become pretty good at these technical aspects of management through training. The bad news is that there is a large “people” gap in the skills of managers today.
Eichinger and Lombardo conducted a series of studies from 1996 to 2000 and identified 67 competencies required to manage effectively. Their study included 134 companies, 1,700 learners, and 15,000 raters. Of those 67 competencies critical to performance, they found that managers are generally poor at:
Of further alarm, the people gap increases as a person moves up the hierarchical ladder. Senior managers and executives have a far greater gap in these competencies than first line supervisors. People are promoted on technical and intellectual abilities and fail at people orchestration abilities. People orchestration abilities does not simply mean being liked by people, it means understanding that things get done through people and that people will only follow those who care about their career and personal needs.
In Gallup’s research spanning over 25 years of assessing effective management practices, as discussed in First, break all the rules: What the world’s greatest managers do differently (1999), five factors were found to correlate positively with business units that performed higher than the average. “…of the five major factors, by far the most powerful is the immediate supervisor factor” (pg. 254). This factor addressed issues relating to the behavior of the employee’s immediate supervisor—issues such as, recognition, development, trust, understanding, and discipline.
Organizations today must provide development opportunities for their leaders and managers on mastering the art of interpersonal skills. These are not simply the “soft skills.” There are proven techniques and training for managers on the “how of people skills.” This does not mean that leaders and managers must be charismatic, this means that they must learn the skills of inquiry, openness, understanding, and encouragement.
A look at leadership-its past and its future
By: Jodi L. Blom
Organizations, whether they are for-profit or not-for-profit, private or institutional, face concerns of retaining valuable talent, making revenue goals to sustain themselves, and maintaining or exceeding their customer’s expectations to shield themselves from competition. In a 1999 Gallup Poll research, Buckingham and Coffman (1999) spanning more than 25 years, of over 80,000 managers in over 400 companies, found that of the factors correlating positively with higher than average performance “…by far the most powerful is the immediate supervisor factor” (pp. 254). This factor addressed issues relating to the behavior of the employee’s immediate supervisor, such as selection, recognition, development, trust, understanding, and discipline. Directly related to employee retention was an employee’s positive response to five questions: (a) do I know what is expected of me at work, (b) do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right, (c) do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day, (d) does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person, and (e) at work, do my opinions seem to count? The authors state, “… these five questions are most directly influenced by the employee’s immediate manager” (pp. 33).
Books addressing and outlining theories on “what it takes” to be an effective leader, manager, or supervisor are blanketing the shelves of most major bookstores today. The numerous approaches to understanding what great leaders and managers do to motivate employees to reach their highest potential and levels of productivity range from the belief that only leaders are born, to the speculation that leadership can be taught. The formal study of leadership in modern organizations began in the early years of industrialization and continues to be of great interest not only to researchers but also to the general public. Our new heroes now include business icons such as Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Eric Schmidt and Larry Paige of Google.
The study of leadership and effective management has progressed from the singular focus of managing job tasks, the impetus of the Scientific Management movement in the early years of the industrial era, to focusing on the “people aspect” of the business first introduced from the Human Relations movement. We have moved from the study of leadership styles and leadership traits to the current study of what effective leaders and managers actually do—a “competency based” focus.
Historical Perspective on Management
It wasn’t until the rise of the industrial era in the early twentieth century that the study of management within organizational life emerged. The field and its beginnings started when Frederick W. Taylor, a foreman at the Bethlehem Steel Works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, observed industrial efficiency in the manufacturing industry, and developed the philosophy of Scientific Management (Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 1996; Weisbord, 1987). Taylor described management as a science with managers and employees having clearly specified yet different responsibilities. Work was systematically divided into specialized areas, supporting the progress to assembly line manufacturing. Under Scientific Management, workers were given distinct tasks and trained in their discrete assigned tasks until they were efficient in physical movement for optimum performance. Taylor analyzed each job based on the most efficient use of time and motion of the tasks being performed. For instance, he studied the most efficient physical positions leading to the fastest times for shoveling ore into a furnace, including analysis of how long it took a worker to pick up a shovel, how far apart the worker needed to place his feet with each shoveling movement, and how the worker should position his hands on the shovel for optimum efficiency.
Included in the structural perspective of management and organizational development in the early years of industrialization were the Classical School of Management proposed by Henri Fayol (1925) and the concept of Bureaucratic Structure, developed by the German sociologist, Max Weber (1946). Both theories suggested that organizational efficiency is achieved through emphasis on order, uniformity, and consistency gained through a clear chain of command and clearly written rules disseminated by managers in authority. Specialization of work, an orderly system of supervision and subordination, and unity of command were the governing elements of the structural approach to organizational productivity. The hierarchical organizational structure that is reflected in most of our organizations even today, as revealed in published organizational charts, emerged from this model. Under the Structural Perspective and Scientific Management approach, the main focus of a leader was on the needs of the organization and not on the needs of the individuals (Gordon, 1993; Weisbord, 1987). The leader’s main function was to set up and enforce performance criteria to meet the organization’s goals.
Human Relations Movement
The structural perspective on increasing organizational efficiency was predominant through the early years of industrialization. However, the surprising results of an experiment conducted in 1924 at Western Electric Company in Hawthorne, Illinois, in conjunction with the National Academy of Sciences, resulted in a paradigm shift from the structural perspective to consideration of the human element of management. The discoveries in the Hawthorne studies led to the emergence of the Human Relations Movement (Mayo, 1933).
At Western Electric’s Hawthorne plant, efficiency experts performed five experimental design studies to identify the ideal physical working conditions for improving worker performance. The first study looked at the effects of lighting on the productivity of workers in different departments of the company. Test groups and control groups were established, with the hypothesis that increased illumination would result in higher productivity among people in the test group—a Scientific Management Approach. Surprisingly, not only productivity improved in the test group but also in the control group. Elton Mayo of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration was called in to assist the organization in understanding these unexpected findings. In observing and interviewing the employees, the researchers from Harvard discovered that during the experiments the employees felt valued and important to the organization. This so-called “Hawthorn effect” offered the first dramatic indication that the attitudes and feelings of workers could significantly influence productivity. As a result of the studies, Western Electric instituted a new training program for supervisors to improve the relationships between employees and supervisors. In 1933, Elton Mayo made the first significant call for the human relations movement in his interim report on the Hawthorne studies. Mayo wrote that the studies showed that existence of informal employee groups, the importance of employee attitudes, the value of a sympathetic and understanding supervisor, and the need to treat people as people had definitive results on productivity (Gordon, 1993). “Being thought of as a team—as participating members of a congenial, cohesive work group—elicited feelings of affiliation, competence and achievement” (Hansen & Batten, 1995).
Employee Motivation Theories
In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, both Carl Rogers (1961) and Abraham Maslow (1954) theories of motivation evolved from and supported the human relations movement that had been occurring in recent years. Rogers and Maslow both postulated an innate human drive to belong, to be thought of highly by others, and to reach one’s full potential (Hergenhahn, 1986). People seek personal growth, whether we call this self-actualization, advancement, growth, or need for achievement. These earlier theories of motivation were integrated into the study of organizational psychology by Douglas McGregor (1960), David McClelland (1961), and Frederick Herzberg (1966). McGregor knew that traditional organizations, with their centralized decision-making, superior-subordinate hierarchical structure, and control of employee tasks, were based on the assumption that people were externally motivated, which he referred to as a Theory X assumption. He attributed the failure of “stick and carrot” management to faulty assumptions about human motivation that induce the behavior they predict. If people are basically unreliable, irresponsible, in need of close supervision and control, managers would need to focus their efforts on structure, control, and close supervision of their employees. Instead, McGregor suggested, the majority of people are self-directed and creative if properly motivated, which he referred to as a Theory Y assumption. Like Rogers and Maslow, McGregor believed that people naturally seek responsibility to exercise their abilities and ingenuity. Because people are infinitely different from one another, there is no one best way to manage. Rather, successful managers, while having a clear sense of direction tend to be flexible in their behavior. To be effective, a manager must listen, delegate, involve employees, as well as make decisions and give directions. McGregor received much criticism for his Theory X and Theory Y theory. Many continued to believe that paying well and controlling workers was the only sensible way to motivate people. Others who shared McGregor’s wish for a Theory Y managerial world saw it as idealistic, impractical, and futile (Hersey & Blanchard, 1996; Weisbord, 1987).
Some theorists, such as Chris Argyris (1962; 1970) agreed with McGregor’s theory of individual competence. According to Argyris, bureaucratic or pyramidal values lead to poor, shallow, and mistrustful relationships. On the other hand, humanistic or democratic values create trusting, authentic relationships among people in the organization. The result is increased interpersonal competence, inter-group cooperation, flexibility, and concomitant increase in organizational productivity.
During the same time period that McGregor proposed his Theory Y concept of management, David McClelland (1961) proposed that there are three basic motivations inherent in people and managers must learn how to best motivate employees based on what is most important to each employee. The three basic motivations he proposed include the need to achieve, the need for affiliation, and the need for power. These motivations exist to varying degrees within each individual. For instance, one person may have a high need to achieve and a lower need for affiliation, whereas a person may be high in need for affiliation and not in need for power. Our predisposition for any one or more of these motivations influences our behavior, attitudes, and choices. Motives are the “whys” of behavior. The strongest motive produces behavior that realizes an ultimate goal. For instance, McClelland (1985) defined an achievement incentive as one in which a person gets satisfaction from doing something better for its own sake or by showing that he or she is more capable of doing something. According to McClelland (1985), the Need to Achieve refers to an optimistic striving to continually improve performance. Those with high achievement needs are proactive and persistent, have an optimistic attitude toward setbacks, and operate from hope of success. He found that people who are high in need to achieve are more intrinsically motivated when an achievement incentive or challenge exists. In fact, external promptings or incentives can actually discourage them. For instance, Douvan (1956) showed that offering monetary rewards to subjects intrinsically high in Need for Achievement does not increase their striving. In fact, introducing extrinsic incentives to people who are intrinsically motivated for achievement may cause them to work less hard. Hence, the manager must have the skills to understand what motivates the individual and under what circumstances, then provide the appropriate feedback that will cause people who are high in Need to Achieve to respond positively. This may include feedback on specific performance, which high achievement driven people find helpful, rather than simply introducing external incentives, such as monetary rewards. Therefore, the key to motivating individuals, according to McClelland, is for managers to understand that people have different needs and that it is the role of the manager to motivate their workers through appropriate extrinsic rewards that are valued by the individual.
Supporting the research of McClelland’s need to achieve, John W. Atkinson (1978) and Edwin Locke (1990; 1991) proposed that individuals are more likely to be motivated to achieve higher levels of performance and productivity if they are involved in setting his or her own challenging, yet attainable goals. They proposed that managers must involve employees to achieve naturally through cooperative goal setting and continual realignment of goals to provide an opportunity for personal growth and development. Goals should be set high enough so that individuals must stretch to reach them, but low enough so that then can be attained. McClelland (1985) and Atkinson (1978) demonstrated in their research that the degree of motivation and effort rises until the probability of success reaches 50 percent, then it begins to fall even though the probability of success continues to increase. In other words, just as people are not highly motivated if a goal seems impossible to achieve, they are also not as motivated once a goal seems too easy, therefore, boring.
The early Maslow and McClelland studies on human motivation described above prompted Frederick Herzberg (1966) to explore the motivational factors present among employees. Herzberg found that there are two types of motivation: those that promote increased motivation, called motivators, and those that if not present decrease motivation, called hygiene or maintenance factors. The hygiene or maintenance factors describe the work environment and other variables that prevent dissatisfaction, including policies and administration, supervision, working conditions, interpersonal relations, money, status and security. The motivators of work performance, on the other hand, produce feelings of achievement and result in an increase of productivity. Motivators include a sense of achievement, recognition for accomplishment, challenging work, increased responsibility, growth and development. Because leadership became defined as a process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts towards a goal, the concept of participatory management was introduced. Organizational productivity models such as Socio-Technical Systems, which emerged from the Tavistock Institute ( ) and Total Quality Management by Edward Deming (Creech; 1994) promoted employee involvement in the process of setting goals and monitoring their own progress, as well as the performance of their work group.
Realizing that each individual worker is unique with varying internal motivational mechanisms led some researchers to the conclusion that leaders and managers must change their behaviors to meet the needs of their employees. Under these theories, managers must focus not only on the work tasks but also on the human relations aspect of managing and motivating people. The concept of a balanced focus on both work tasks and employee relations emerged out of the 1945 Ohio State and Michigan leadership studies which attempted to identify various dimensions of leader behavior (Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 1996). These studies, the first that plotted leader behavior on a two-dimensional matrix rather than on a single continuum revealed that there are two distinct dimensions upon which leaders focus. The first dimension involves consideration or employee orientation and the second dimension involves initiating structure or production orientation. Leaders who scored high on one dimension did not necessarily score low on the other, suggesting that a leader could focus effectively on both job tasks and the relationship-building with employees. During this period, Blake and Mouton (1964) developed the Leadership Grid, also building on the concepts of the Ohio and Michigan studies that the best leaders have both the concern for production (task) and the concern for people (relationship) to be most effective as a leader. They postulated that the “best” managers equally focused on accomplishing the tasks with that of establishing an effective relationship with each employee.
While researchers, such as Blake, Mouton, and McGregor argued the “best” is one with a high concern for both task and relationship, other researchers proposed that leadership is situational or contingent upon such factors as the needs or abilities of the followers, the relationship of the leader and the subordinates, the tasks the group is performing, and the hierarchical position of the leader, referred to as position power. In this case, the “best” leaders varied their style or approach of management based on the needs of the followers, rather than expecting employees to meet the needs of the leader. Effective leaders taught when the need arose, gave directives in other instances, or stepped back and let the employee take the lead in yet other instances. Although many models suggest that the leader must be flexible based on the situation, including the Tannenbaum-Schmidt Continuum of Leader Behavior Model, the Stinson-Johnson Model, and the Vroom-Yetton Contingency Model, only Fiedler’s Leadership Contingency Model and Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leader Model will be discussed here.
Fred Fiedler ((Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 1996; Schein, 1980), referred to as the father of contingency theory leadership, developed the Leadership Contingency model. He proposed that there are three major situational variables that influence a leader’s ability to successfully manage subordinates: (a) the leader’s personal relations with group members; (b) the degree of structure in the task; and, (c) the power and authority of the leader’s position. He arrived at a matrix consisting of the eight possible combinations of these three variables, then attempted to determine what the most effective leadership style fit each of these situations. Fiedler found that the most favorable situation for the leader occurs when the leader is well liked by the group members, when the leader has a powerful position, and when the tasks performed by the group are structured. Not surprisingly, the most unfavorable situation for the leader is one in which they are disliked, have little position power, and manage unstructured work.
Furthermore in addressing each of the eight scenarios, he found that leaders who have a tendency to be task-oriented--that is, competent at setting goals or structuring the workflow--perform best when either the leader has very good relationship with the group members and the tasks performed are very structured, or, conversely, they have unfavorable relationship with group members and the tasks performed by the group are not structured. On the other hand, Fiedler found that relationship-oriented leaders are most successful in the situation where the relationships with group members is intermediate—neither high nor low.
In concert with Fiedler, Hersey and Blanchard (1969) who proposed the model of Situational Leadership, argue that effective leadership is “situational”-- based on the needs of the followers and the situation, rather than on one type of leadership style. In their view, successful leaders are able to adapt their style to fit the requirements of the situation and needs of their followers (Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 1996). They describe task behavior dimensions as goal setting, organizing, setting timeline, directing, and controlling. Relationship behavior dimensions includes, giving support, communication, facilitating interactions, active listening, and providing feedback.
“Task behavior is essentially the extent to which a leader engages in one-way communication by explaining what each staff member is to do as well as when, where, and how tasks are to be accomplished. Relationship behavior, even when we call it supportive behavior, is still the extent to which a leader engages in two-way communication by providing socio-emotional support, ‘psychological strokes,’ and facilitating behaviors” (Hersey & Blanchard, 1996, pp. 217).
They proposed that the leader’s decision to focus on task or relationship is predicated on whether the follower is able or unable to perform the tasks, and whether or not the follower is unwilling and insecure or willing and confident. The leader’s behaviors or style must correspond to the follower’s readiness. If an employee is new to the tasks to be performed, the leader must establish specific guidelines and tell the employee more specifically how to perform the tasks, setting clearly defined expectations. However, if an employee is expert in performing the tasks of the job and is willing and confident in performing those tasks, the leader should delegate and monitor rather than set specific “how to guidelines.” If the leader, in that situation, is too directive or authoritarian, the employee may perceive that leader as a micro-manager and become frustrated.
The leader or manager must also determine which elements of the group’s or individual’s specific activities should be influenced. For instance, a sales manager may find that the group or individual is proficient in the ability to sell the product, but lack organizational skills in completing the related paperwork. Managers must not only consider the job as a whole but must also look at the specific competencies related to the job and adjust their management style to provide the leadership needed by the follower. As the follower becomes more proficient in his or her job duties and responsibilities, the manager must adjust to a style that fosters independence and authority to subordinates.
These studies suggested that certain characteristics could be isolated to predict successful leadership behavior. Before 1945 and continuing even today, the most common approach to the study of leadership concentrated on leadership traits, suggesting that certain characteristics were essential for effective leadership. Trait research was replaced by contextual or situational models for about 20 years but re-emerged in 1975 due to technological advances in genetics and microbiology as traits of leadership are likely to have a genetic component to explain differences in leadership effectiveness (Bass, 2008). Review of trait studies suggest that 30%-40% of variance in such traits as extroversion, shyness, sociability, self-confidencek cognitive abilities, verbal fluency, and verbal comprehension. Arvey, Rotunda, Johnson, et.al. (2006) obtained data from the Minnesota Twin Registry to compare 238 identical twins with 88 fraternal twins. They found 30% of the people who emerged as leaders were attributable to genetics.
In a meta-analysis by Judge, Bono, Ilies, et.al. (2006) found personality trait clusters correlated with emergence and effectiveness of leadership. Task competence such as cognitive ability was the first cluster of traits and interpersonal competence, personality and character was the second cluster.
Although no absolute list of necessary leadership traits has been identified, in 1991 Shelley A. Kirkpatrick and Edwin A. Locke (1991, pp. 49) did say that, “Leaders do not have to be great men or women by being intellectual geniuses or omniscient prophets to succeed, but they do need to have the ‘right stuff’ and this stuff is not equally present in all people.” They concluded that leadership traits that do matter are ambition or achievement drive, socialized leadership motivation, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, knowledge of the business, and sometimes, charisma, creativity, originality, and flexibility. Similarly, Gary A. Yukl (1994) found the following traits characteristic of successful leaders: adaptable to change, alert to social environment, ambitious and achievement-oriented, assertive, cooperative, decisive, dependable, dominant in the sense of having the desire to influence others, energetic, persistent, self-confident, tolerant of stress, and willing to assume responsibility. In a five-year study of ninety outstanding leaders and their followers, Warren Bennis (1984) identified four common traits shared by effective leaders: (a) management of attention – the ability to communicate a sense of outcome, goal, or direction that attracts followers, (b) management of meaning – the ability to create and communicate meaning with clarity and understanding, (c) management of trust – the ability to be reliable and consistent, and (d) management of self – the ability to know one’s self and to use one’s skills within the limits of one’s strengths and weaknesses. A careful look at the lists of characteristics proposed by these researchers, reveals many similarities in the dimensions identified, including an internal sense of motivation or drive; the ability to influence other people; a tolerance of the unknown; trustworthiness; and the ability to take responsibility and make decisions. Effectively these traits are also needed to effectively manage the job tasks of the work group. As introduced in the Situational Leadership model, the relationship between the leader and follower are as essential to effective leadership.
Conversely, Morgan W. McCall and Michael M. Lombardo (1983) identified the negative traits or fatal flaws that derail leaders and are inversely relate to the positive traits mentioned above. The list included, (a) insensitivity to others, (b) coldness, aloofness, and arrogance, (c) untrustworthiness, (d) being overly ambitious, (e) having specific performance problems, (f) inability to delegate or build a team, (g) inability to staff effectively, (h) inability to think strategically, (i) inability to adapt to boss with different style, (j) over-dependence on advocate or mentor. Although identifying global traits of effective leaders and managers is given less weight today, traits are still included in more recent work on identifying competencies: Behaviors that are observable and measurable.
There was a problem in the predictive validity of traits and performance. Typologies did not predict who would be more effective in performance. Even the expansive studies conducted on IQ to performance did not account for why individuals with moderate IQ out performed people of high IQ. In 1973, David C. McClelland published a paper entitled “Testing for Competence rather than Intelligence,” which was both credited and blamed for the launching of the competency movement in psychology. Instead of classifying the individual’s “style” or “traits” such as, outgoing or introverted, McClelland proposed that one should instead assess people’s competencies in terms of the specific job and study the competencies that the “star” performers had for a given job.
The US Information Services approached McClelland (McClelland & Dailey, 1973) when it discovered that applicants’ scores on the written entrance exams, which measured aptitude, did not predict success on the job of Foreign Service Information Officers. To understand the discrepancy between test scores and job performance, McClelland, using a technique called Behavioral Event Interviewing, contrasted superior performers to average and/or poor performers to determine competency characteristics, which differentiated the two groups. The Behavioral Event Interview essentially asks people to think of several important on-the-job situations—both positive and negative in outcome—then describe in narrative detail what led up to the situation, who was involved, what they thought and felt during the situation, and what they did. Statements from the interviews were analyzed to arrive at a list of competencies. Theses competencies were then coded both for frequency of occurrence in the interview (Boyatzis, 1982) and for the level of complexity or scope at which they were displayed (Spencer & Spencer, 1993). Through this extensive interview process and analysis of the responses, McClelland found that superior Foreign Service Information Officers showed three main competencies that differentiated superior versus average performance: (a) cross-cultural interpersonal sensitivity to people from foreign cultures, (b) the ability to maintain positive expectations of others despite provocation, and (c) speed in learning political networks. Unlike the tests previously given to select candidates, these interviews detected non-academic competencies. McClelland’s approach, a radical departure in job analysis did predict successful performance on the job.
Since McClelland’s introduction, the shift from measuring personality traits to identifying specific competencies displayed by superior versus average performers has been widely used by practitioners over the past 25 years. The perceived validity of this approach is based on the fact that, “the competency method emphasizes criterion validity: what actually causes superior performance on the job, not what factors most reliably describe all the characteristics of a person, in the hope that some of them will relate to job performance,” (Spencer & Spencer, 1993, pp. 7).
Competencies are defined as underlying characteristics describing how a person behaves and thinks across situations that endure for a long period of time (Boyatzis, 1982). Competency models address three elements: 1) functions and demands of the job; 2) the organization’s environment; and 3) an individual’s competencies which represent the capability that he or she brings to the job situation (Boyatzis, 1982). Congruence amongst all three elements must exist. One of the most notable researchers on competency, Boyatzis, defines a job competency as “an underlying characteristic of a person in that it may be a motive, trait, skill, aspect of one’s self-image or social role, or a body of knowledge which he or she uses,” (pp. 21). Such competencies differentiate a superior performer from average and poor performers. Competency researchers distinguish five types of competency:
- Motives or the things a person consistently thinks about or wants that cause action;
- Traits or the physical characteristics and consistent responses to situations or information, which can include physical traits, such as reaction time, or mental traits, such as emotional self-control;
- Self-concept or a person’s attitudes, values, or self-image;
- Knowledge or information a person has in a specific content area; and
- Skill or the ability to perform a certain physical or mental task (Boyatzis, 1982; Spencer and Spencer, 1993)
Boyatzis (1982) also distinguishes two categories of competency. Threshold competency refers to the minimal level of competency to perform the job, and differentiating competency refers to the factors that distinguish superior from average performers. “A threshold competency is a person’s generic knowledge, motive, trait, self-image, social role, or skill which is essential to performing a job, but is not causally related to superior job performance” (pp. 23).
Although competency studies are conducted in a particular organization to arrive at competence in a particular setting or culture, the researchers of the Hay/McBer Group, (Spencer and Spencer, 1983) identified a list of generic competencies that consistently distinguish superior managers across organizations and functions that are either individually focused or organizationally focused. The generic competencies are: (a) impact and influence, (b) achievement orientation, (c) teamwork and cooperation, (d) analytical thinking, (e) initiative, (f) developing others, (g) self-confidence, (h) directiveness/assertiveness, (i) information seeking, (j) team leadership, and (k) conceptual thinking. To be outstanding, McClelland (1998) found that managers must have at least one out of three individual-initiative competencies, at least one out of three organizational-skills competencies, and a total of at least six out of the approximately twelve competencies that commonly differentiate outstanding from typical managers. Only the technical competencies of management—knowledge of the functions or business being managed—were required for reasonable performance, but they did not distinguish superior from average performers.
Two other prominent competency researchers, Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger with the Center of Creative Leadership, collected data from over 21,000 raters on individual managers and executives. They sampled a total of 3,000 people from over 130 companies and developed a list of sixty-seven competencies important to performance and potential (2001). These competencies fall into eight categories that Lombardo and Eichinger refer to as, Future Skills, Day-to-Day, Courage, Energy, Leading Change, Inside Skills, Personal and Interpersonal Skills, and Growth and Balance. Of these sixty-seven competencies, they suggest that twenty are predictive of successful job performance across all levels of the organization—from line staff to executive level. They identify an additional fourteen competencies that people are generally not good at, but that if developed, will give them a competitive edge against their competition. The remaining competencies are fairly unique for each level and include factors such as approachability, peer relations, and interpersonal savvy for staff level; relationships with bosses, comfort with top management, and hiring for management level; and organizational agility, negotiating, and sizing up people for executive level.
Interestingly, Lombardo and Eichinger found that people at different levels and positions throughout organizations were lowest on certain competencies: (a) dealing with ambiguity, (b) creativity, (c) innovation management, (d) building effective teams, (e) planning, (f) managing and measuring work, (g) conflict management, (h) motivating others, (i) managing vision and purpose, (j) directing others, (k) personal learning, and (l) developing direct reports. Instead they found that people at each level and position within organizations demonstrate strengths in competencies related to individual performance: (a) action orientation, (b) perseverance, and (c) technical ability such as intellectual horsepower, functional technical skills, and technical learning. They state that, “…few people are developed on much besides technical job skills in most of our organizations” (2001, p. 32). These two researchers propose that organizations must concentrate their development and training efforts on teaching the competencies that will give them the competitive edge and hire or select for the competencies that people are generally already good at.
Emotional Intelligence Competency
Many of the competencies that distinguish superior managers versus average managers identified by Boyatzis (1982) and those competencies identified by Lombardo and Eichinger (2001) that will improve the organization’s “competitive edge” involve the “soft skills” of managing and influencing people, such as identified by Kouzes and Posner. These competencies are also closely aligned with the seminal theory of interpersonal or emotional intelligence proposed by Howard Gardner (1983) and Daniel Goleman (1995).
Gardner (1983) proposed a model of multiple intelligence that included linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic and personal types of intelligences. Personal intelligence is, in turn, composed of two varieties: the intrapersonal ability to access one’s own feelings and the interpersonal or outward ability to notice and make distinctions among other individuals. Daniel Goleman’s (1993) extensive research and synthesis of the physiological make-up of emotional processing and the conceptual basis of emotions took Gardner’s theory one-step further by linking emotional intelligence to performance.
Goleman asserts that unlike general intelligence, which concentrates on the functioning of the neocortex of the brain or cognitive functioning, “emotional intelligence encompasses the behavioral manifestations of underlying neurological circuitry that primarily links the limbic areas for emotional centering on the amygdala and its extended networks throughout the brain, to areas in the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s executive center” (Goleman, 2001b, pp. 30). As described by Goleman (1985), Josephs LeDoux’s work reveals how the architecture of the brain gives the amygdala the power to bypass our logical brain (the neocortex), where thoughts are organized and rational thoughts prevail, and become overwhelmed by the power of emotions. Sensory signals travel to the thalamus, which first sends a signal to the amygdala--the seat of emotion. A second signal from the thalamus is routed to the neocortex for logical response. It is this lapse in time that allows the amygdala to send a message to other parts of the body for an initial response of fight or flight—our primitive survival response. Thus, emotional intelligence contains separate, distinct capabilities from general intelligence and cognitive domains, although both are integral to emotional management. It is a person’s ability to control his or her emotional responses and recognize other’s emotional needs that leads one to effective interaction with others. Interpersonal skills begin with emotional intelligence.
Goleman (1985) first presented a competency-based model of emotional intelligence comprising twenty-five competencies arrayed in five clusters. These clusters were Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation , Empathy and Social Skills Clusters. Recently, Goleman, Boyatzis, and Rhee (2000) refined the model, resulting in twenty individual competencies, since reduced to eighteen, in a four-cluster model (Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee, 2002). Empirical cluster and factor analysis resulted in the following four major clusters with each of their respective individual competencies:
- Self-awareness cluster including Emotional Self-awareness, Accurate Self-assessment, and Self-confidence competencies;
- Self-management cluster including Emotional self-control, Transparency, Adaptability, Achievement, Initiative, and Optimism competencies;
- Social Awareness cluster including Empathy, Service, and Organizational awareness competencies;
- Relationship management cluster including Inspiration, Influence, Developing others, Change catalyst, Conflict management, and Teamwork and collaboration competencies.
Each competency cluster group is thought to build upon the preceding clusters. Self-Awareness must be present for one to be competent in Self-management. Both Self-awareness and Self-management must be present for Social Awareness to occur, and all of these must be present for one to become competent in Social Skills (Jacob, 2001; Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee, 2002).
Within each of the four clusters, different relationships may exist between the competencies. As McClelland (Jacobs, 2001) advocated in his research on competencies, there is no one single set of characteristics that lead to success. As McClelland (Jacobs, 2001) advocated in his research on competencies, there is no one single set of characteristics that lead to success. Instead, different configurations and combinations of competencies produce different results. Boyatzis, Goleman, and Rhee (2000) identify four types of relationships that can occur: complementary, alternative manifestations, compensatory, and antagonistic.
First, complimentary relationship is seen when competencies enhance each other when used in conjunction. For instance, a person can be adaptable or can demonstrate initiative, but if the person can use both, that person’s effectiveness increases. Secondly, alternative manifestations are described as a relationship between competencies that represent the same general set of capabilities but that may be manifested differently in specific situations. For instance, Leading Others and Change Catalyst are both considered leadership competencies—Leading Others includes providing a vision and a goal, a more general leadership competency whereas being competent as a Change Catalyst is generally only needed in specific times of change, such as a reorganization. Thirdly, competencies may have an antagonist relationship, referring to strength in one competency, which may prevent the use or demonstration of another. For instance, Self-control, the ability to inhibit impulses, may be antagonistic to Initiative, the ability to start new things. By understanding these different types of relationships, one can begin to assess how an individual’s strengths or competencies influence or restrain development of other competencies, which may greatly impact that individual’s performance.
The fourth type of relationship is referred to as compensatory relationships within competencies. It is the concept that one competency may make up for a deficiency in another competency. For instance, Achievement Orientation and Initiative are different competencies but both may arrive at the same results, meaning that one or another competency will result in similar outcome of performance within the competency cluster. Achievement Orientation is defined as showing a concern about doing better, whereas Initiative may result in behavior that seeks new or better ways to accomplish things before anyone else has even thought of it. Having strength in one can make up for lack of use of the other.
Goleman (2002) posits that some competencies within each cluster are necessary or mandatory for outstanding performance and others are compensatory. In order to be deemed competent in a cluster, a person must demonstrate the mandatory competency and one or more of the compensatory competencies. For instance, in the first cluster, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence is mandatory for outstanding performance and either Emotional Self-Awareness or Accurate Self-Assessment needs to be demonstrated for competency in the first cluster group. In the second cluster group, Self-Management, Self-Control, the core of managing oneself and one’s motives is mandatory and only one of the other competencies--Trustworthiness or Conscientiousness or Adaptability--must be present. Trustworthiness and Conscientiousness are considered alternate manifestations of each other—both referring to stability and reliability—whereas Adaptability is about flexibility and openness to change. Also, in this cluster, a person must demonstrate either Achievement Orientation or Initiative, competencies that are compensatory. In this cluster both the Self-Regulation and Motivation competencies appear and have an antagonistic relationship to each other; however, it is theorized that it is the balance between the two that maximizes effectiveness.
With regard to the two clusters that concern relationships with others, Social Awareness and Social Skills, the mandatory competencies consist of Empathy and Influence. Organizational Awareness and Service Orientation are needed for competency in the Social Awareness cluster. In the Social Skills cluster, the competencies tend to be more situation specific, separated into two primary groups. “The first group—Leading Others and Developing Others—demonstrates the ability to lead and manage others. The second group—Building Bonds, Teamwork, and Collaboration, and Conflict Management—demonstrates the ability to work well with others” (Jacob, 2001, pp. 166).
Recent research demonstrates that emotional intelligence of its managers is of greater importance for the financial success of the organization than IQ (Cherniss, 2000). A study conducted by D. Williams in 1994, showed that companies whose CEOs exhibited more Emotional Intelligence competencies showed better financial results measured by both profit and growth (Golelman, 2001). In another study of 358 executives (Cavallo & Brienza, 2002), high-performing managers were compared with average-performing managers. The managers in the high-potential group were found to exhibit virtually every one of the EI competencies, while the executives in the comparison group possessed few of those competencies (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002).
Typically, the best performers in organizations are those rewarded with promotion to a supervisory or management position. Those people who have demonstrated individual achievement, initiative, ability to perform, and work output become our managers, yet competencies in motivating and influencing others to perform are very different from those of individual achievement. Establishing rapport and collaboration with subordinates, peers, and superiors become the differentiating factor for success in management. Individual achievement has been taught extensively in our education system, from pre-school through post graduate work. Although management training courses exist in proliferation, the remaining question is how do we best teach the skills of emotional intelligence as it relates to influencing, collaborating, and motivating within a complex workplace.
C. Chernis and D. Goleman suggest five key steps in creating training programs in the area of emotional intelligence that are lasting and effective to changing behaviors. Engaging people who enter change programs is key. It is estimated that only 20 percent of the people who attend a training provided in the workplace are motivated to change, therefore, participants must first be assisted to engage in self-discovery in a safe, encouraging environment. First, participants must be aware of their respective strengths and weaknesses. Feedback from others is critical for this self-awareness to occur. This can be accomplished through psychological tests, assessment centers, in-depth interviewing, or through 360-degree instruments. Next, self-regulation techniques that help the participant learn how to manage their emotions, for instance, anger or frustration, and methods for improving their discovered weaknesses are provided to the participant. Thirdly, participants must develop specific goals for monitoring and improving their skills and abilities in their areas of weakness; teaching the skills of self-motivation. The last two steps promotes learning on how to be truly empathetic for other people’s feelings, including how to effectively listen to the needs of others, and lastly, how to display effective social skills.
Transformational vs. Transactional Leadership
Transactional Style of Leadership reflects more commonly defined managerial functions of leadership rather than charismatic, inspirational style of transformational leadership. Up until the late 1970’s, leadership theory concentrated almost exclusively on characteristics of transactional leadership (Bass, 2008). Transactional leadership focuses on the carrot and stick approach of managing workers. Components of transactional leadership includes contingent reward where the leader assigns a task or obtains agreement from the followers on what needs to be done and rewarding followers through intangible rewards such as praise or tangible rewards such as a salary increase or promotion. Management by exception or monitoring mistakes and errors in performance is the second components of transactional leadership. Management by exception may be either passive where the manager takes action after a problems exists or active where the manager takes a more active role by setting standards and monitoring progress.
Transformational leadership includes charisma but also goes beyond simply inspiring follower’s behavior. A transformational leader as defined by Bass (1985) in his Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) include the five I’s of transformational leadership: 1) Idealized Attributes; 2) Idealized Behaviors; 3) Inspirational Motivation; 4) Intellectual Stimulation, and; 5) Individualized Consideration. In addition to transformational leadership, the MLQ model incorporates a broader concept of leadership. The concept includes transactional leadership and passive/avoidant leadership. Bass (1998) discovered a hierarchy of leadership effectiveness with leaders who demonstrate more transformational behaviors are most effective, active transactional leadership behaviors. The least effective leaders were passive management by exception.
Social and emotional competences have been found to be significant to transformational leadership (Bass, 2002). Other transformational models of leadership, including the research of notable leadership theorists such as John Kotter (1982), Edwin Locke (1991), and Kouzes and Posner (1995), have focused on competencies that have been commonly referred to as the “soft” skills of management. These models suggest that fostering collaboration, inclusion, and creativity in the work climate require competencies outside the realm of task management, a skill set that focuses on the human element.
Kouzes and Posner (1995) developed the Leadership Practices Inventory derived from responses to the Personal-Best Leadership Experience Questionnaire collected from over 2,500 respondents. In addition to case studies, in-depth interviews were conducted, primarily with managers in middle- to senior-level organizational positions in a variety of public- and private-sector companies around the world. Kouzes and Posner found five factors, accounting for 60.5 percent of the variance, which led to their model of effective leadership.
(a) Good leaders challenge the process. They search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve. They experiment, take risks, and learn from the accompanying mistakes.
- Good leaders inspire a shared vision. They envision an uplifting and ennobling future, and they enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams.
- Good leaders enable others to act. They foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust. They strengthen others in the organization by giving power away, providing choice, developing competence, assigning critical tasks, and offering visible support.
- Good leaders model the way. They set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values, and they achieve small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment.
- Good leaders encourage the heart by recognizing individual contributions to the success of every project and celebrating team accomplishments regularly.
Future of Leadership Studies
Bass (2008) forecasts that there is likely to be more research on transformational factors such as charisma, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, creativity, and individualized consideration. Bass predicts that as women and diversity continues to change the make-up of organizations and these groups rise to higher levels of the organization, social and emotional competence of leaders will be more important to managing in a complex global market place. Additionally, the net generation is beginning to enter the workplace. According to Alsop (2008) this generation sometimes referred to as the entitled generation wants more feedback, communication, and encouragement from their boss and on a continual basis. Their expectations are to have a more casual working relationship with people at executive levels of the organization. This generation is not influenced by position power as their parents, the boomer generation was influenced. Tapscott (2009) describes the net generation in more favorable terms in that they have lived in a collaborative, team environment and use technology to network globally. Even the games this generation grew up playing were more collaborative, such as World of Warcraft which emphasizes cooperation instead of competition.
The net generation also wants important, meaningful, and challenging work. They are not shy of taking on the challenges even when they are not ready for the challenges (Tapscott, 2009). Although the generation is not afraid of challenges, they also want balance between work and life. They want brutally honest and frequent feedback on their performance and are not afraid of voicing their opinions, even with the top executives. They value honesty and ethics of their leaders and want communication to be open and sincere. The challenges organizations face will be how to accommodate these needs and different view of working especially from baby boomer management that is more hierarchical and traditional in their work habits.
To meet these challenges, managers will need to demonstrate collaborative communication competencies that focus on their worker’s individual’s achievements and provides feedback to them that fosters cooperation and respect. Person-centered communication which focuses one’s communication messages that consider the perspective of others (Fix & Sias, 2006) versus position-centered communication which is a command and rule driven form of communication leads to greater job satisfaction as reported by employees. Person-centered communication is not only a “feel good” style of communication it was found to be associated with higher upward mobility and monetary rewards as well (Zorn & Violanti, 1996). Zorn (1991) found employees’ perceptions of their supervisors’ use of person-centered communication were associated with the extent to which their supervisors used a transformational leadership style.
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