HOW TO Develop Competencies for Responsible Management?

Oliver Laasch (University of Manchester)

Abstract: To create competent responsible managers it cannot enough to teach knowledge “about” such management (McDonald, 2013). Educators rather have to develop people who know, act, interrelate, and are responsible managers- who master responsible management. For this purpose, the traditional competency profile of good management has to be questioned and enriched with distinct responsible management competencies. This post describes how to translate such competency thinking into competency-based responsible management education.


We are (again) living in times of societal change with management education, especially business schools, being blamed for many of the ailments of the global economy (and society) that is perceived to have been caused by the behavior of irresponsible managers. On a more positive note, there is also an increasing appreciation of the manager´s potential to do good. Overall, there is an increasing consensus that the societal movement towards greater business sustainability, responsibility and ethics has become a new business imperative (Lubin & Esty, 2010; Waddock, Bodwell, & Graves, 2002). This imperative drastically changes the way organizations function and subsequently creates a demand for a new type of competencies, a “new normal” regarding what it means to be a competent manager. Accordingly, there is a need for an altered competency profile under the consideration of “responsible” management competencies, which if taken seriously have considerable implications for management development (Waddock & McIntosh, 2009).


The competency approach has largely been developed in the early 1990s with the goal to better understand what it means to be a competent manager (Caird, 1992; Brewis, 1996). This implies that being a competent manager does not only mean to know about management (knowledge as just one competency type), but to master the management profession, including not only knowledge (to know), but also social (to interact), procedural (to do), and self competencies (to be) (Delors, et al., 1996; Erpenbeck & Heyse, 2007; Erpenbeck & Rosenstil, 2003) that make an effective manager (Brewis, 1996). However, what it means to be a “good” and effective manager is subject to constant change of the context of the management profession. For instance, the mid-1990s and early 2000s´ globalization trend, which led to the emergence of an increasingly internationalized management profession, has led to the need for “developing global managers” by building up on a competency profile that includes “global capabilities” (Townsend & Cairns, 2003) as a minimum requirement for a “good” and competent manager. Managers competency portfolios change (Burgoyne, 1989). As outlined in the very beginning of this text, we currently see a trend similar in magnitude to globalization, shaking up the management profession, the move towards responsible management as an aspired “new normal” that necessitates a competency profile for the “new” competent manager.

The below figure from Laasch and Conway (2015) illustrates some management competencies that might be of importance for a competent responsible manager. The figure is meant to be a conversation starter, not an exhaustive list. The figure is based on an initial brainstorming of what competencies might be of increased relevance for the responsible manager. However, Oliver Laasch and Dirk Moosmayer are currently conducting research that aims to contrast the above list against the current literature (structured literature review) and against managerial realities (empirical study) in order to come up with a more complete, and robust competency profile.

Competencies for mainstream and responsible management
Table 1. Competencies for mainstream and responsible management


Adopting a competency approach to responsible management education challenges us to rethink both traditional management education (Kurucz, Colbert, & Marcus, 2013) and existing approaches to responsible management education. There is ample and deep guidance to developing competency-based management education (Burke, 1989; Winterton & Winterton, 1999) that may help us in the process. If we take the task of developing responsible managers seriously, it is now time to insert the “responsible” aspect into such education. This requires the redesign of curricula, both on course and degree level. Once we have decided what kind of responsible management competencies we want to achieve through our educational activities, it is time to rethink educational activity systems, and to tune them in to the creation of these unusual competencies. This might require, as an example, unusual educational methods such as service learning, role plays, or simulations, and unusual educators. What else would need to be done differently? Taking competencies for responsible management education seriously has to mean educational change, but also requires a critical review of which of the old-established competencies are also crucial for a “new normal” management, a responsible management.

So how to start? A professional development workshop at the 2014 Academy of Management meeting in Philadelphia, organized by faculty of the Fox School of Business at Temple University focused on re-designing course and degree curricula, based on aspired management competencies. The process included a detailed competency assessment of single courses, based on the aspired competency portfolio, where different competencies were color coded for a better visual capture. As a support tool for both the design process and student evaluation served rubrics, with descriptions of different levels of mastery for each competency. This enabled workshop participants to better understand which competencies were covered through their own courses, and to put courses next to each other to see the bigger picture of where, when, and how specific competencies would be furthered throughout the curriculum. The process also facilitate the detection of competency gaps, and potential connections points between otherwise isolated courses.



To discuss this post and his work with Oliver Laasch, please get in touch at oliver.laasch(at) or olaasch(at)


Oliver Laasch teaches a pilot course titled “Competencies for Responsible Management Education” at the University of Tübingen and currently develops another pilot course on the competency-based web education platform LoudCloud.

Oliver Laasch and Dirk Moosmayer are currently developing the above framework to two articles, one outlining the conceptual framework based on a structured literature review and a second one providing an empirical underpinning through an in-depth case studies of managerial competencies of “responsible managers” at a major multinational corporation.


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