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What it Takes to Move Up

Identifying competencies important for obtaining high-level positions
with organizational change

Nicholas Salvatoriello
Professor Alan Belasen
MBA 652

What it Takes to Move Up

The role of the middle manager has seen a lot of challenges and changes within the past two
decades. Competition from an increasingly complex, competitive, and global business
environment has forced great change on companies, sometimes unexpectedly. Massive
corporations with bloated hierarchies found themselves in need of innovation or else become
extinct. Those Managers who have survived these organizational challenges and changes at the
socio-technical level are those who have mastered core competency learning and have used it to
add strategic value to their position and those of their teams. They then successfully promoted
themselves through utilizing key communication networks. Management studies have
researched the successes and failures of groups, teams, and organizations that are in pursuit of
high-performance leadership and also, the roles a manager, who wants to survive and prosper,
must master and balance.

Managerial leaders must work within an environment of complex and contradictory expectations,
as the CVF suggests. There are eight different role behaviors expected from managers reflected
in the CVF reflected as four separate models of organization, each with their own goals and
leadership competencies necessary for achieving them. These leadership roles and competencies
are charted along axes of orientation in the CVF which reflect an organization’s outlook, be it
inward, outward, centralized or decentralized.

This framework suggests that some of the roles seem to be in opposition to one another in
that they entail mutually exclusive organizational effectiveness criteria. It is in this reality that


the astute manager will find the CVF useful in enabling themselves to increase self-awareness of
the strengths and weaknesses associated with acting out the eight universal roles.

The most important question therefore is how, according to the theory described in our course
work, does the leader on the rise obtain responsibilities to demonstrate those competencies?
The competencies necessary for mid-level managers wanting to move on to higher-level
positions may vary in importance depending on the type of work processes involved. As one can
see from Part III, of managerial leadership in the Belason text, Leading the Learning
Organization leadership role studies were cited of USPS self-managed teams as compared to
SMT operation in a distribution center. It was found that different roles need to be emphasized
in each organization’s team. These results suggest some roles are less important than others due
to the unique structure of teams, strong ownership of team goals or internalization of certain
functions and responsibilities (Manz & Sims, 1987, p. 114).

What the research concludes is that how people are organized around these new processes and
changes at the socio-technical level requires the ambitious manager to adjust and learn
competencies that were found to be essential in a discontinuous environment such as horizontal
management and self-managed teams. A manager must:

• The manager must reinvent themselves as a team leader, sponsor, and consultant.
• They must learn to communicate with equal effectiveness in all directions necessary to
get the job done while at the same time sharing information at a level of transparency
unheard of in normative structures (Mentor and Broker Role).
• They must adapt to deal with changing the organizational structure in response to the
market (Innovator Role).
• They must become proficient in engaging others in decision making (Facilitator Role)
while also demanding accountability and requiring improved results (Monitor and
Producer Role).

Given these expectations, what we are shown is the Competing Values Framework theory has
proven throughout the course text, class discussion, and case studies which is in every highly
effective work unit, common models, roles, and competencies can be observed as a necessity for
mastery if a manager wishes to move to higher levels of performance. This is desirable, as these
competencies and roles enhance action-learning and maintain the “creative tension” necessary
for businesses undergoing rapid change with teams that are functioning in a discontinuous

The consequences of not mastering these competencies can be very detrimental to a manager and
an organization as a whole. One example would be the ‘Acquisition of Abbot Hospital’ case
from class. Sister Mary Theresa is described in part two of the case study as being autocratic and
acting without communication or participation with other stake-holders at Abbot, particularly
John Coletti.

“Staff at both hospitals were to be informed they could be transferred between

hospitals at administrative discretion. No seniority and accrued benefits from
Abbott would transfer to Mt. Mercy/Abbot staff status. John Coletti was not


consulted or notified of these actions by the Mt. Mercy personnel department….

John Coletti was furious and threatened to resign his position immediately unless
this policy was altered. Sister Mary Theresa held to her basic reorganization
plan, and Coletti resigned on February 1, 1991. Five department heads from
Abbot also resigned.” (Longman 1994, page 7)

Sister Mary Theresa is an example of an upper level manager who did not adapt to re-
organizational structure. She did not engage others in decision making or share information, and
did not reinvent herself in response to taking on Abbot Hospital’s management (which, up to
acquisition, was essentially a self-managed team of administrators.) The result was low morale,
people leaving the organization, and a very poor six months of performance for Abbot Hospital.

My personal experience with upper level managers at Union College’s Office of College
Relations has been much different. Working in a department whose top position is vacating in 3
months and whose own work group (The Union Fund) has experienced almost 80% turnover in
the last 2 years, could suggest an environment fraught with anxiety and lack of cohesive
direction. However, with regular interdepartmental meetings, frequent communications both
horizontally and diagonally across the organization, most of those employed in College Relations
are able to anticipate changes and help facilitate transitions as they occur which allows them to
achieve good success. An example would be our monthly “celebrations” meetings wherein the
entire department gathers in one space to celebrate birthdays, employment anniversaries, and
shares updates from each area of the department. It’s a great networking environment where
cross-functional relationships have been quickly established and maintained.

Thus far, have reviewed examples of what to do and what not to do when it comes to gaining
proficiency in the competencies needed in order to effectively become a desirable candidate for
upper-management. What needs to finally discussed is what a good manager must do for his
team so that it too can achieve a higher level of effectiveness and become a learning

A strategy I would recommend would be to institute action­learning as an overarching goal so 
that they can demonstrate adding value to employees above and beyond the regular work­
processes required of them.  The manager must be confident enough in augmenting learning 
opportunities and identifying and confronting behavioral problems may not have been typically 
allowed to surface previously.

I would also recommend that the competitive manager commit to a process of continual learning 
and insist on the rest of their direct reports or team members ­ depending on your structure. 
Hamel (1991, p. 98) cited by West and Meyer (1997, p. 41) proposed that “firms with a history of 
cross functional teamwork and inter­business coordination were more likely to turn personal 
learning into corporate learning than were firms where the emphasis was on individual 
contributors and independent business units.”


Managers who assemble and become part of cross­functional teams and reach out to other 
businesses will be best seen as leaders who can become champions of a company’s change effort. 
Belason’s text Part IV on Learning and Development cites an article by Carlvery, Mobley, and 
Marshall (1994, P. 41).  What it states are the steps for a manager to help his organization become 
a “learning organization.”  Some highlights are:

• Questioning current assumptions about learning
• Getting an outside perspective
• Articulating learning­organization ideas plainly
• Taking risks while simultaneously avoiding jeopardizing the basic security of the 
• Link individual performance with organizational performance

They must learn not just to be proficient in their responsibilities, but managers who want to 
become leaders must show they are able to create a new vision, reshape the organizational 
mission, and articulate the values which support that vision. 

In conclusion, high performance leadership which empowers others is all about initiating
transformational learning. The value-adding manager uses conceptual, non­autocratic power to 
inspire employees.  Belason’s course text gives insight on how an effective manager facilitates 
communication strategies and development methods through emerging paradigms seen in 
industry today; self managed teams, action­learning, and the roles of the CVF.  This will take 
discipline, confidence, and self­knowledge on the part of those who want to move up.  However, 
this is what I believe it takes to stand out as the transformational leader that business is calling for