Developing managerial competencies for a turbulent world

The field of management is undergoing a revolution. The traditional paradigm assumes the purpose of management is to control and limit people, seek stability and efficiency, use rules and regulations, design a top-down hierarchy to direct people, to achieve bottom-line (profit) results.

The newly emerging paradigm assumes the purpose of management is to harness peoples’ enthusiasm and creativity; find shared vision, norms, and values; share information and power; encourage teamwork, collaboration, and participation; and develop people to adapt to extraordinary environmental changes and achieve top-line (total sales) effectiveness. Both paradigms are guiding management actions in the world today.


Increasing Need of First-Rate Leadership

First-rate leadership will increase in importance at all levels of organisation, but it will not necessarily be highly formalised or hierarchical. Increasingly, the leadership process will become identified with an ability to mobilise the energies and commitments of people through the creation of shared values.

Managers of the future will have to develop their leadership skills. In particular, they will have to view leadership as a “framing” and “bridging” process that can energize and focus the efforts of employees in ways that resonate with the challenges and demands posed by the wider environment.

This process requires many competencies, especially those that enable the leader to create the vision, shared understanding or sense of identity that can unite people in pursuit of relevant challenges, and to find means of communicating that vision in a way that makes it actionable.


The Demands of an Information Society

In an information society, the management of an organization’s human resources will become increasingly important. Managers will have to find ways of developing and mobilising the intelligence, knowledge, and creative potential of human beings at every level of the organisation.

Traditional economics has thought us that the important factors of production are land, labor, and capital. But in the modern age, knowledge, creativity, opportunity seeking, interpersonal skills, and entrepreneurial ability are becoming equally important.

The process of human resource management will thus become an important function of every manager’s job, rather than the preserve of personnel specialists. It will become very important to recruit people who enjoy learning and relish change and motivate employees to be intelligent, flexible, and adaptive.

Special attention will need to be developed to finding ways of motivating people to make contributions that have long-term benefits, not just those that become visible in the short-run. New ways of balancing and integrating the interests of stakeholders will have to be developed.

As organisations become more aware of the importance of their human resource base and increase the quality of their human resources, the nature of the manger’s role will also change.

The manager will no longer be able to function as a technical specialist who is also responsible for managing people, as is so often the case today.

He or she will have to become much more of an all-round generalist who is able to achieve good integration between technical, human, operational, and creative sides of management.

The skill of integrating short- and long-term perspectives will become of increasing importance as a means of integrating today’s learning with future activities. Every manager will be required to think of tomorrow as well as be effective today.

These mangers should be able to manage in an environment of equals and will have to prove their worth by being a resource to those being managed.

The demands of an information society will require organisations and their members to promote creativity, learning, and innovation. They will have to find the key to unleashing individual creativity and learning, and develop organisational processes and structures that promote this.

Organisational hierarchies tend to stifle debate and risk-taking. Managers interested in promoting learning and innovation thus have to find new ways of structuring relations to promote the creative process, especially through the values defining corporate culture.

The ability to foster an appropriate culture will become increasingly important, especially one permeated by attitudes that encourage openness, self-questioning, a proactive entrepreneurial approach, an appreciation for the importance of ‘adding value,” and a general optimism and orientation toward learning and change that energises people to rise to challenges.

Managers will also need to promote innovation through brainstorming, creative thinking, and experimentation and by developing reward structures that sustain innovative activity.

They will have to develop more open managerial processes that flatten hierarchies and improve lateral interactions. The ability to manage and work within multidisciplinary teams will be essential.

The flattening of organization structures will require new approaches to management and control. With the props of hierarchy removed, managers will have to coordinate through the development of shared values and shared understanding and find the right balance between delegation and control.

Managers will become responsible for coordinating the work of people who want to work with a minimum of supervision. Managers will need to learn to “let go” and to develop skill of “remote management,” such as “helicoptering” and “managing through an umbilical cord.” Managers will have to promote decentralisation and become skilled in designing and managing systems that are self-organizing.

The “hands off” style demands a very different philosophy and approach from that required of managers working in hierarchical situations.

Managers must become adept at handling the uncertainty and ambiguity that accompany remote management and at reading the early warning signs suggesting when intervention is needed.

Management will become much more concerned with empowerment than with close supervision and control.

The pace of change and the required evolution of skills will place a high premium on continuous learning. Managers will have to become finely tuned to their own learning needs and those relating to the education and development of their staff.

Complexity is the name of the managerial game: many managers may want simplicity, but the reality is that they have to deal with complexity.

The complexity of organisational life is increasing rather than decreasing, as manifested in conflicting demands posed by multiple stakeholders, the need for managers to deal with many things at once, and the almost continuous state of transition.

To manage ambiguity and paradox, managers of the future will have to develop managerial philosophies and techniques that allow them to cope with messy, ill-defined situations that do not lend themselves to clear-cut interpretation and have no ready-made recipes for action.

By Captain Sam Addaih (Rtd)

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