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KEY SOCIAL COMPETENCES OF MANAGERS AND LEADERSHIP
Zuzana Birknerova, PhD.
University of Presov in Presov
The report is aimed to illustrate the significance of applying social competences in managing employees in order for a contemporary manager to be successful. The main objective of the research is to confirm this fact by detecting the degree of applying social competences by managers of various corporations and institutions in Slovakia. The research is aimed to detect whether there are any differences in applying social competences between men and women and among managers of various degrees of education. The research was carried out on the sample of 101 managers by means of a questionnaire to record the opinions of managers on applying social competences.
Keywords: leadership, motivation, empathy, communication, manager
Leading people, leadership
Leading is very significant for improvement and success of every organization. Leadership represents one of the crucial qualities of a manager. The essence of leadership is the ability to be followed. People are willing to follow only a person who convinces them that he or she can secure fulfillment of their desires, wishes and needs. Leadership may be understood as a relationship by means of which one person influences behavior or activities of other people (Mes?ro?ov? 2006). According to Armstrong (2006), leadership means inspiring individuals to do their best in order to reach the desired goals. Sedl?k (1997) states that power or authority are inevitable preconditions for leadership. Might is an ability to change or influence opinions, actions and behavior of others, and it is based either in legislative power, expertise, or in the trust of others. Authority is one of the types of legitimate powers which arises from the functional position of a person within an organizational structure and enables decision-making and thus influencing the subordinates.
Until recently, only strong personalities could be successful as good managers who were followed by the majority of the employees of a company. Nowadays it is different because the employees of companies are no longer willing to be subject to old rules and wait passively for the commands. They are now active, ready for discussions, aware of their qualities, and by means of these they want to succeed under the management of a skillful, democratic, modern boss who represents a good example, which means a transition from demonstrating know-how into applying show-how based both on the knowledge and the quality of ideas and ability to re-shape them into specific products (Kov?? 2007).
Less demonstrable is the influence of creative abilities, flexibility and personal charm. Studies do not identically reveal what degree of these abilities is necessary for a person to have and which abilities and relations are from the viewpoint of leadership most important. Arnold et al. (2007) deals with the meaning of a leader's charisma and argues that charisma does not come from the behavior of the leader, it is the person who is essentially charismatic. A charismatic leader can clearly formulate a strategic vision, takes personal responsibility, never does any unusual or unexpected things and is sensitive to the occassions, threats and needs of others. Kouzes and Pozner (2003) regard leadership as an identifiable set of skills and experience which are available to all, not only to the few charismatic men and women. According to them it is possible to define leadership as a relationship between those, who aspire to lead and those, who are willing to follow. In accordance with Adair (2005), attributes of a successful leader consist of the ability to make decisions and quick adaptability to changes as well as the ability to understand others, inspire others, be an example for others, express trust, purposefulness, objectivity and abstract thinking. To these leadership features he adds enthusiasm, honesty, tenacity, kindness and modesty.
American economists Rachman and Mescon (1985) claim that in order to acquire results, one of the effective tools for a manager to become a leader is also sympathy and applying a common corporate culture. Corporate culture includes values, attitudes, opinions, expectations, traditions, feeling, dress code and communication style among employees, and it serves as a guide by means of which the employees gain the ability to consider what is expected of them, how to approach certain problems, and what forms of problem-solving are acceptable for an organization. Knowledge of this culture provides, for example, a feeling of stability during the period of great changes. According to Fontana (1994), a successful leader has an ability to reveal the problem, provide the feeling of sympathy and fellowship, stimulate a discussion, secure the inter-group relationships, and reach a consensus. Good leaders are objective, they know how to push the things through, they are convincing, initiative, and able to keep a balance between orientation to the tasks and orientation to the people.
Prokopenko and Kubr (1996) describe competences of a manager as a set of knowledge, character features, attitudes and skills necessary for performing certain functions. As far as knowledge is concerned, the important one comes from the economic, business and managerial areas, and also from the technology as well as social, psychological, cultural and political factors. Concerning character features, it is impossible to elaborate a universal personality model which would demonstrate that only that one would be the most successful in a particular control function. Despite this it is possible to choose suitable persons for the leading positions according to their character features, talent and attitudes. Character features are characteristic ways of thinking and reacting to groups of stimuli to various situations such as flexibility, adaptability, self-confidence, aggressiveness, endurance, patience, etc.
Managerial competences may be defined as a set of such skills which enable improvement of managerial practice. Effective managers have a wide range of skills which support and complete each other and thus enable flexibility in managing and coping with various situations (Mes?ro?ov? 2006). A competence may be considered as an optimal tuning of work capabilities for the needs of their profession including social parameters of their work positions which is, however, not given once and for all. People will always differ from one another in their competences depending on their individual qualities and manifestations which will meet, in greater or lesser extent, the objective requirements of the situation (Bedrnov?, Nov? 2007). Competent workers are equipped with such abilities, qualities, knowledge and experience that they need, they are motivated to utilize such behavior and also they have the opportunity to use it within a given environment (Kube? et al. 2004).
Identification of competences is aimed to find out which behavior is crucial for successfulness of a manager in a given position. The model of competence describes a concrete combination of knowledge, skills and personality characteristics which are necessary for effective fulfillment of tasks in a particular organization and it unites the viewpoints on what is important for the future, what kind of behavior should be supported, developed and rewarded. Kube? et al. (2004) also describe the concept of development of managerial competences for high performance as an integration of four aspects (ADDA):
1. Assess – need for exact knowledge of contemporary level of key competences
2. Design – ability to choose from the development possibilities
3. Develop – provision of development tools for a manager
4. Assist – manager's aid in implementing the knowledge into daily practice.
Bedrnov? and Nov? (2007) consider social competences as a particularly important part of managerial potential because they include perceptual, interactional, organizational and behavioral abilities and other aspects which are closely related to the development of this potential, such as self-perception, self-assessment, and self-efficacy of a manager. According to Porvazn?k (2007), social competence is, next to the professional and practical competence which can be learned and gained through practice, the third pillar for the development of personality which needs to be developed by means of education or upbringing. As managers work directly with people, the Indian economists, Nagendra and Manjunath (2008), consider applying social competences by managers as very important because they include the ability to understand emotions and feelings of others, to assess possible reactions of people to various situations, to communicate, lead, motivate and inspire people.
Significant social competences which are connected to the process of social perception and are inevitable for successful work of a modern manager of this century involve communication, active listening, coping with interpersonal conflicts, assertive conduct and communication, ability to negotiate and discuss, motivating and creating relationships, delegating tasks and competences, providing feedback and criticism, couching, emotional intelligence and empathy. The key social competences are, however, empathy, communication, conflict-solving and motivation.
The main objective of this report is to point out the significance of applying social competences in leading employees in order for a contemporary manager to be successful. The research is aimed to confirm this fact by detecting the degree of applying these competences by managers of various corporations and institutions in Slovakia, and it should also detect the differences in applying social competences between men and women as well as managers with various degrees of education.
H1: We assume statistically significant correlations between the individual researched social competences (motivation, empathy, conflict-solving, communication).
H2: We assume statistically significant gender differences in applying social competences in favor of women.
H3: We assume statistically significant differences in applying social competences by managers with various degrees of education.
The overall number of respondents of this research was 101 managers. The research file consisted of managers from various corporations and institutions in Slovakia. The file included 37 men and 64 women, 14 of them were 20-30 years old, 32 were 31-40 years old, 35 were 41-50 years old, and 20 of the participants were 51 and more years old. 28 respondents had secondary education, 2 had a B.A. degree, 67 had an M.A. degree and 4 had a PhD. The first managerial level included 60 managers, the middle level consisted of 38 managers, and the top level involved 3 managers.
In order to collect information and apply social competences by managers we used a questionnaire by means of which we were detecting opinions of managers on applying these competences. The questionnaire consists of 60 questions with the answer scale of 1 to 6 (1 – absolutely agree, 6 – absolutely disagree), which are thematically divided into three parts according to the individual competences (motivation, empathy and communication). We evaluated the statistical data by means of the SPSS (17.0 version) program for statistics.
In this research we were detecting the degree of applying social competences in managing subordinates by managers. We tried to point out the significance of applying these competences in leading employees as well as their mutual correlations and gender differences of managers with various degrees of education.
Hypothesis 1: We assume statistically significant correlations between the individual researched social competences (motivation, empathy, conflict-solving, communication).
We studied the correlational connection between the individual social competences which we consider important for successful leading of employees. For the purposes of comparison we used correlation analysis, namely Pearson's Correlation Coefficient (Table 1).
Table 1 shows that a particularly great correlation exists among all three social competences. This correlation is significant on the level of significance of p < 0.01 (1%) in all researched competences. Motivation positively correlates with empathy (r = .718) and communication (r = .615). Empathy positively correlates with communication (r = .743), which means that the individual selected social competences are very closely related to each other. These calculations serve as an evidence for the correctness of Hypothesis 1, which was confirmed.
Hypothesis 2: We assume statistically significant gender differences in applying social competences in favor of women.
A comparison of the differences in applying the selected social competences between men and women was carried out by means of the T-test (Table 2).
Statistically significant difference on the level of significance up to 0.05 (5%) occurred in six questions from the area of empathy and conflict-solving in favor of women. This confirmed Hypothesis 2.
Women are more sympathetic, they positively affect the feelings of others, are better in detecting the mood from non-verbal feelings, do not ignore the feelings of subordinates, in conflicts they search for more solutions to the problem, and they believe that conflicts are part of life and their solving makes us move forward. In perception of conflicts which take our lives to another level, the biggest difference in the average answers was detected among women, which means women take a more positive approach in solving conflicts.
The biggest average value in the answers of women (5.42) and men (4.95) was equal in their ability to feel empathy for the subordinates, and the lowest value of women (4.63) and men (4.22) was detected again equally in the ability to positively affect their subordinates. On the basis of these results it can be stated that although all managers try to sympathize with their subordinates, they are unable to positively influence their feelings.
Hypothesis 3: We assume statistically significant differences in applying social competences by managers with various degrees of education.
A comparison of the results of applying the selected social competences by managers with various levels of education was, again, carried out by means of the T-test (Table 3).
Hypothesis 3 was also confirmed because there really are statistically significant differences in applying social competences by managers with various degrees of education on the significance level of 0.05 (5%), namely between the managers with secondary education and those with the M.A. degree, which is supported by the results of the T-test illustrated in Table 3. Due to the small number of respondents with the PhD. (4) and the B.A. degree (2), the information about these managers was, within the comparisons of statistically significant differences, insignificant.
Managers with secondary education do not have any problem to say no, which is reflected in the biggest difference in their average answers. Statistically significant differences in applying social competences are related to communication and conflict-solving. Managers with higher education encourage their peers to express their own opinions more but, on the other hand, managers with secondary education are better in assertive refusal, expressing own opinions, or dealing with conflicting people.
The main objective of our research was to detect, study and evaluate the significance and extent of applying social competences by managers. In the first hypothesis, we assumed statistical correlations between the individual studied social competences and it was confirmed with a high correlational connection. In the second hypothesis we assumed significant statistical gender differences in applying social competences in favor of women, which was also confirmed, particularly in empathy and conflict-solving in favor of women. We assumed further statistically significant differences in applying social competences according to various degrees of education of managers, which were, again, confirmed in communication with the subordinates. We may state that the results of this research confirmed our assumptions and the high average value of all answers in the questionnaire proves that managers give much importance to applying social competences in leading their employees. Our findings are also confirmed by various researches carried out in the given area of study (Frankovsk?, ?tefko, Baumgartner 2006; Droppa 2008; V?vrov? 2009; Frankovsk?, Kento? 2008; Hrb??kov? 2010, and others). Social skills help managers to be realistic or to modify their requirements from others who work with them. It is a method by means of which it is possible to effectively manage professional relationships. Managers must realize that it is impossible to maintain permanent success in relationships with subordinates, and they also should not expect to be liked by everyone. Fontana (1994) claims that social skills may be learned but it is a lifelong process.