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The core leadership competencies

von Anja Böhm (Autor) Mohammed Mosavi (Autor)

Seminararbeit 2008 27 Seiten

BWL - Unternehmensführung, Management, Organisation


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 Trait theory of leadership

3 Leadership competencies
3.1 Leadership competencies within disposition
3.1.1 Decision making competence
3.1.2 Communicational competence
3.2 Leadership competencies within management
3.2.1 Competence of setting targets
3.2.2 Planning competence
3.2.3 Organizing competence
3.2.4 Controlling competence
3.2.5 Competence to enhance cooperation
3.3 Leadership competencies within human resources
3.3.1 Coordination competence
3.3.2 Delegation competence
3.3.3 Motivational competence
3.3.4 Competence to develop and support employees
3.3.5 Competence to manage conflicts

4 Conclusion


Executive Summary

Leadership and leadership competencies have been of great interest throughout history. Until today many theories have been developed to identify effective leaders and thus enhance business success.

Within the 20th century, the efforts for a socio-scientific and empirically proven research on leadership strongly intensified, resulting in trait theory of leadership in the 1920s. Trait theory subsumes all approaches of leadership research, which ascribe the decisive meaning to the leader’s personality. It revealed that leaders scored higher in the areas of intelligence, success in school, reliability, in acceptance of responsibility, activity and social integration, drive, self-confidence, socio-economic status in comparison to non-leaders. Despite of lacking empirical evidence for the validity of trait theory, it is nowadays still widely valued in the practice of corporate management, especially by those who hold leading positions and it should be considered along with other situational or behavioral variables.

Leadership competencies show within disposition, within management and within human resources.

Within disposition, the leader has to be able to make well-evaluated decisions. A good leader must also be able to act according to the speed of business. Therefore, the leader needs knowledge, skills and especially experience to make the right decisions under time pressure. Moreover, a good leader must be able to communicate and if necessary build up co-operations.

Within management, the leader needs four core competencies: first, the leader must be able to define measurable und reachable targets. Secondly, the leader has to be able to define a plan and prepare the implementation. Thirdly, the leader has to apply organizational measures for creating a framework for the implementation of planning results and structure the implementation process through formalized approaches. Fourthly, the leader must be able to control the results and the current achievement of the goals, without permanently observing the employees.

Within human resources, leaders have to be able to coordinate. Secondly, they should be able to delegate tasks, competencies and responsibility. Thirdly, leaders should understand how to motivate their associates. For doing so, they ought to know the various motivational content as well as process theories. In the end, they need to enhance their employees’ internal motivation in order to enhance performance. Fourthly, leaders should hold the competence to develop and support employees. When developing and supporting employees, the leader ought to obey four elements, which are essential for the development of employees within an organization: the task, the present strengths, the superior and the placement. Fifthly, leaders need to manage conflicts, since they are inevitable accompaniments of social interaction.

List of Figures

Figure 1: Similarities between the different content theories

Figure 2: Handling conflicts as a managerial function

List of Tables

Table 1: Historical trends of leadership research

Table 2: Personal characteristics of leaders compared to non-leaders

List of Abbreviations

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1 Introduction

Due to their importance, core leadership competencies have always been a subject of research throughout history. From Greek philosopher Platon in the 4th century B.C. via Machiavelli in the 16th century to modern scientists - the concern of understanding and advancing leadership never faded. The question of how to create effective leadership with the ideal basic conditions has been standing in the center of attention until today. Therefore, when discussing management, the question for leadership competencies arises. These competencies will be observed in detail within this paper. However, before explicitly studying leadership competencies, both terms leadership as well as competence shall each be defined.

Leadership “is the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives” (Yukl 2006, p. 8). Therefore, leadership ranges from leading single employees and teams to visionary thinking and acting of leaders for the whole company (Bruch et al. 2006, p. 4).

The word competency derives from the Latin word competencia, which means to be capable of doing something and to be entitled to something. Competence is the ability to act suitable within a situation. It describes the relation between the demands on a group or an individual and their abilities or potential to meet these demands (North & Reinhardt 2005, p. 29).

Therefore, leadership competencies are defined as “a set of common personal characteristics to be found in leaders, which are needed for outstanding performance” (Stahl & Björkman 2006, p. 60).

This assignment will primarily deal with a leader’s personal competencies, abilities and traits. It will neither focus on the situational and systematic approach nor on management styles, although the fact that a superior has or follows a certain style might also be considered as a personal trait (Wiswede 2000, p. 251).

2 Trait theory of leadership

In the 20th century, the efforts for a socio-scientific and empirically proven research on leadership strongly intensified (Steiger 2008, p. 39). Trends of leadership research are listed in Table 1, whereby none of the older development trends became less important throughout the years (Steiger 2008, p. 40).

Table 1: Historical trends of leadership research

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Source: Steiger 2008, p. 39

It seems to be rational, searching for successful leadership within the leader’s personal characteristics or traits. Characteristics, which are perceived as traits are stable in time, can be perceived in more than one situation, and are universal (in all humans, even though with different occurrence) (Steiger 2008, p. 40).

Therefore, trait theory subsumes all approaches of leadership research, which ascribe the leader’s personality the decisive meaning (Steiger 2008, p. 40). Table 2 lists traits of leaders in comparison to non-leaders.

Table 2: Personal characteristics of leaders compared to non-leaders

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* as quoted in Staehle 1999, p. 332

Additionally, in comparison to ineffective leaders, effective ones showed higher occurrence of human relations skills, need for advancement, resistance to stress, supervisory ability, need for occupational achievement and need for self-fulfillment (McKenna 2000, p. 356). Other traits, which predict effective leadership, include high energy level and stress tolerance, internal locus of control orientation, emotional maturity, socialized power motivation, moderate achievement and a low need for affiliation (Den Jartog & Koopman 2001, p. 168). On the other hand little leading competencies are assigned to narcissistic, autocratic and ruthless individuals (Wunderer 2001, p. 23).

However, the qualities, characteristics and skills, which are demanded from a leader, depend in large amounts on the specifications of the situation (intellectual level, status, skills, needs and interests of subordinates and objectives) in which the leader shall act (Staehle 1999, p. 333).

Nevertheless, trait theories of leadership do not reveal anything about the characteristics of subordinates, the task and the necessary interactions (Staehle 1999, p. 333). Since they are static, they do not give insights in the development of a leader and in leadership throughout the variation of time. The experience in management showed that leaders with so called leading relevant characteristics, like intelligence, initiative or sense of justice do not have to be all-purpose and in every case successful, because leaders in the sense of trait theory often fail in new leading situations or with unfamiliar group behavior (Staehle 1999, p. 333). Therefore, leadership research is meanwhile aware that the leading success does not depend solely on the personal characteristics of the leader (Staehle 1999, p. 333, Steiger 2008, p. 41).

Despite of lacking empirical evidence for the validity of trait theory, it is nowadays still widely valued in the practice of corporate management, especially by those who hold leading positions (Staehle 1999, p. 334). Den Jartog & Koopman (2001, p. 168) recommend to consider traits along with other situational or behavioral variables, which will not be presented within this paper.

3 Leadership competencies

Leadership competencies are a set of general personal characteristics, which are found in leaders and which are the basis for exceptional achievement (Stahl & Björkman 2006, p. 60).

3.1 Leadership competencies within disposition

3.1.1 Decision making competence

Every aspect of business is determined through decisions. They occur within all functional areas, business units, as well as on all layers of business processes. Therefore this competence is expected from leading individuals in management and seen as “typical” skill (Malik 2000, p. 202). Putting it differently, economic activity can be described as a continuous process of choosing from various options (Preissler, 1992, p. 99). The selection of one choice is then called decision. The starting point of this process is always a decision problem, consisting of a target or desired functional outcome and an impulse of willingness (Preissler, 1992, p. 99). The latter can exist voluntarily or forced and depends on type and process of target setting.

Decision making can thus be understood as the execution of an intentional selection process between alternatives that serve a target or functional outcome achievement. The decision process can be divided in three phases (Preissler 1992, p. 99): Firstly, the decision problem has to be identified and the requirements on the target need to be specified. Secondly, an adequate amount of decision alternatives aiming for the respective target have to be developed and their individual risks analyzed. In the last, third step, a decision for one of the alternatives has to be made, based on well-founded reasoning and as applicable with the support of a decision making tool, and then followed by ensuring the implementation of the made decision. Especially during the first phase, skill deficiencies of decision makers are unveiled in practice: The actual problem behind a decision making situation is not or only insufficiently analyzed (Malik 2000, p. 203 f.). In practice, either the time required for the necessary problem analysis is not applied or apparently existing opinions, statements, rumors and so on are seen as the “source” of the decision problem. In both cases, often incorrect decisions are the result. Correcting wrong decisions often costs more time and resources than the effort that would have been invested in a complete decision making process upfront (Malik 2000, p. 203 f.).



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
519 KB
Institution / Hochschule
FOM Hochschule für Oekonomie & Management gemeinnützige GmbH, Berlin früher Fachhochschule
Leadership Führung Führungskompetenz




Titel: The core leadership competencies