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White Paper

A Study of the Attributes of Managerial Effectiveness

in Singapore: Implications for a Competency model
for Managers in Singapore.

John Kenworthy
Annie Wong
GAINMORE™ Leadership Advantage
December 2003

Table of Contents

Purpose of Paper
Research Aims
Research Questions
Managerial effectiveness and competency
Competence and Competency
Previous Research
The need to develop managerial competencies in Asia Pacific
Competences for International Management
Singapore Public Sector Manager Competences
Influence of Cultural differences
Singaporeans abroad
Findings from this research study
Note on Research Method
Comparison with other research
Further Research

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This study was made possible through the generous support of our participants,

colleagues and friends who gave up their time to join the discussions and tell us
stories and shared their experiences.
Thank you

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Purpose of Paper
The purpose of this paper is to summarise the findings of a study to establish
the attributes demonstrated by managers deemed to be effective, in Singapore.
The paper synthesises relevant previous research in the field of study and
develops a useful new competency framework from research forums with
business leaders, practicing managers and human resource professionals.

The Singapore media regularly generates and reflects on-going debate about
the Singapore Government’s policies on foreign workers. A recent NTU study
was lambasted by the Ministry of Manpower for suggesting, inaccurately, that
25% of new jobs created were taken up by Singaporeans (Channel News Asia,
2003). Frequently, the media also highlights discussion on the topics of ‘Foreign
Talent’ – non-Singaporeans who are attracted to work in Singapore as specialists
and managers. Typical arguments supporting the need to employ foreigners
suggest that local managers do not possess the abilities required by the
organisation to undertake the job and/or manage it effectively or successfully.

Anecdotally, expatriates and Singaporeans in Singapore give a mixed

interpretation of the reasons or ‘need’ for foreign talent. Typical of the reasons
cited by expatriate managers currently based in Singapore or Malaysia
“Locals are not capable of running this business because they don’t understand
how to manage all the [local and home-based] people involved”
“Expat managers are at least 5 times as productive as a local manager – and
hence more than justify their package”
“Local managers don’t have the international experience or exposure required
[in this organisation]”
“Most locals are unwilling to take risks or lose face”
“Most Singaporeans ‘freeze’ when promoted and find themselves reporting
directly to a Caucasian manager”
“Most Malaysians are unwilling to put in the required effort”
Similar discussions with locals, i.e. Asian Singaporeans or Malaysians, reveal
similar beliefs that ‘locals’ lack suitable international exposure or experience
and a recognition that most [Asian] individual managers do not prefer to expose
themselves to [perceived] risk. Most often though the reason cited that
expatriates are employed as managers in organisations is “that’s the way life

This study attempts to identify the attributes or characteristics or behaviours

associated with effective managers such that a useful framework may be
developed that may be used to help organisations recruit, retain or develop
their managers – be they foreigners or Singaporeans – to the benefit of the
individuals, organisations and the economy.

Research Aims
This research design attempts to clarify and update this current issue faced in
• What competencies make for an effective manager in Singapore? It is not
intended that this research be all-encompassing but to provide a solid
foundation that may be developed and refined.

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Research Questions
The aims of the research have been broken down into suitable research
questions (Creswell, 2003) with the aim being partially accomplished through
answering two questions:
• Which competencies distinguish effective managers from less-effective
managers in Singapore?
• Do effective managers in Singapore demonstrate distinctive competencies? In
order to start to address the issues, this paper briefly reviews the literature and
directly relevant previous research on the subject in Singapore and Malaysia.
This research design will then qualitatively assess the competences of effective
managers through a series of research forums facilitated by the author with
targeted groups of individuals to provide a triangulated assessment. The
research forums held between 26 August and 2 September 2003 included
th nd

invited individuals to represent their own opinions on the topic in one of three
Individual Managers – persons in a managerial role in a range of foreign and
locally owned, small, medium and large companies
Business Leaders – persons in a senior position with direct influence on local
Human resource Professionals – persons in a human resource management role
The research design leans to a social constructionist approach (Remenyi et al.,
1998) recognising that the critical independent variable (effectiveness) is
subject to wide interpretation.

Managerial effectiveness and competency

There is a growing level of interest and focus on managerial competences and
managerial performance with a wealth of literature (Boyatzis, 1982, Finn, 1993,
Higgs, 1999, Sarawano, 1993, Spencer and Spencer, 1993, Young, 2002)
Definitions of competences and competencies within the literature are the
subject of considerable debate (Finn, 1993) and confusion. Schroder (1989)
defines competences quite simply as “personal effectiveness skills”. Others
consider competences as being linked to personality and therefore, within the
context of the intended research on input factors, potentially impact on the
understanding of managerial performance and effectiveness.

Many researchers have attempted to identify and isolate the competencies or

characteristics or dimensions of superior performers in the practice of
management. David McClelland is often cited as the father of the modern
competency movement. In 1973, he challenged the then orthodoxy of academic
aptitude and knowledge content tests, as being unable to predict performance
or success in life and as being biased against minorities and women (Young,
2002). Identified through patterns of behaviour, competencies are
characteristics of people that differentiate performance in a specific job or role
(Kelner, 2001, McClelland, 1973). Competencies distinguish well between roles
at the same level in different functions and also between roles at different
levels (even in the same function) often by the number of competencies
required to define the role. A competency model for a Middle Manager is usually
defined within ten to twelve competencies, of those two are relatively unique to
a given role. Kelner suggest that competency models for senior executives
require fifteen to eighteen competencies, up to half of which were unique to the
model (Kelner, 2001).

Kelner (2001), cites a 1996 unpublished paper by the late David McClelland
were he performed a meta-analysis of executives assessed on competencies,
where McClelland discovered that only eight competencies could consistently
predict performance in any executive with 80 percent accuracy.

The first scientifically valid set of scaled competencies – competencies that

have sets of behaviours ordered into levels of sophistication or complexity –
were developed by Hay/McBer (Spencer and Spencer, 1993). The competencies
found to be the most critical for effective managers include:
Achievement Orientation
Developing Others
Impact and Influence
Interpersonal Understanding
Organisational Awareness
Team Leadership

This set of characteristics, or individual competencies, that a manager brings to

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the job need to match well to the job or additional effort may be necessary to
carry out the job or the manager may not be able to use certain managerial
styles effectively. These are in turn affected by the organisational climate and
the actual requirement of the job.

Competence and Competency

The concept of competence remains one of the most diffuse terms in the
organisational and occupational literature (Nordhaug and Gronhaug, 1994).
Exactly what does an author mean when using any of the terms of

The concept of “individual competence” is widely used in human resources

management (Boyatzis, 1982, Burgoyne, 1993, Schroder, 1989). This refers to a
set of skills that an individual must possess in order to be capable of
satisfactorily performing a specified job. Although the concept of individual
competence is well developed in human resources management, there is a
continuing debate about its precise meaning.

Others take a “Job-based competence” view that according to Robotham and

Jubb (1996) can be applied to any type of business (Robotham and Jubb,
1996)where the competence-based system is based on identifying a list of key
activities (McAuley, 1994) and behaviours identified through observing
managers’ in the course of doing their job.

A useful view is to look at “competence” to mean a skill and the standard of

performance whilst “competency” refers to behaviour by which it is achieved
(Rowe, 1995). That is, “Competence” describes what people do and
“Competency” describes how people do it.

Rowe (1995) further distinguishes the attributes an individual exhibits as

“morally based behaviours” – these are important drivers of behaviours but
especially difficult to measure – and “intellectually based behaviours” as
“capabilities” or “competencies”. Capabilities are distinguished as these refer to
development behaviours – i.e. are graded to note development areas to
improve behaviours in how people undertake particular tasks.

Young (2002) develops on a similar theme and builds on Sarawano’s model

(Sarawano, 1993) linking competency and competence to performance and
identifies ‘Competency’ as the personal characteristics (motives, traits,
image/role and knowledge) and how the individual behaves (skill).
‘Competence’ is what a manger is required to do – the job activities (functions,
tasks). These in turn lead to the performance of the individual [manager].

Jacobs (1989) considers a distinction between “hard” and “soft” competences.

Soft competences refer to such items as creativity and sensitivity, and comprise
more of the personal qualities that lie behind behaviour. These items are viewed
as being conceptually different from hard competences, such as the ability to
be well organised. Jacobs’ distinction fits neatly into Young’s model with “Hard
competences” referring to identifiable behaviours, and “Soft competencies” as
the personal characteristics of the individual.

Further distinctions relate to the usefulness of measuring competnc(i)es.

Cockerill et al (1995) define “Threshold” and “High performance” competences.
Threshold competences are units of behaviour which are used by job holders,
but which are not considered to be associated with superior performance. They
can be thought of as defining the minimum requirements of a job – for example,
basic literacy and numeracy skills. High performance competences in contrast,
are behaviours that are associated with individuals who perform their jobs at a
superior level (Cockerill et al., 1995).

In the UK, the Management Charter Initiative sought to create a standard model
where competence is recognised in the form of job-specific outcomes. Thus

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competence is judged on performance of an individual in a specific job role. The
competences required in each job role are defined through means of a
functional analysis - a ‘top-down’ process resulting in four levels of description:
Key purpose
Key role
Units of competence
Elements of competence

Elements are broken down into performance criteria, which describe the
characteristics of competent performance, and range statements, which specify
the range of situations or contexts in which the competence should be

The model now includes personal competence, missing from the original,
addressing some of the criticisms levelled at the MCI standards. Though the
model tends to ignore personal behaviours which may underpin some
performance characteristics. Particularly in the area of management where
recent work has indicated the importance of behavioural characteristics such as
self-confidence, sensitivity, proactivity and stamina.

The US approach to management competence has focused heavily on

behaviours. Boyatzis (1982) identifies a number of behaviours useful for
specifying behavioural competence. Schroder also offers insights into the
personal competencies which contribute to effective professional performance
(Schroder, 1989).
Personal competencies and their identifying behaviours form the back bone of
many company-specific competency frameworks and are used extensively in
Assessment Centres for selection purposes. This is because behavioural (or
personal) competence may be a better predictor of capability – i.e. the potential
to perform in future posts – than functional competence – which attests to
competence in a current post. The main weakness of the personal competence
approach, according to Cheetham, is that it doesn’t define or assure effective
performance within the job role in terms of the outcomes achieved.

In his seminal work The Reflective Practitioner, Schon (1983) attempts to define
the nature of professional practice. He challenges the orthodoxy of “technical
rationality”, the belief that professionals solve problems by simply applying
specialist or scientific knowledge. Instead, Schon offers a new epistemology of
professional practice of “knowing in action” (a form of acquired tacit knowledge)
and “reflection (the ability to learn through and within practice). Schon argues
that reflection (both “reflection in action” and “reflection about action”) is vital
part of the process professionals go through in reframing and resolving day-to-
day problems that are not answered by the simple application of scientific or
technical principles.

Schon does not offer a comprehensive model of professional competence.

Rather, he argues that the primary competence of any professional is the ability
to reflect – this being the key to acquiring all other competencies in a cycle of
continuous improvement.

Some writers have identified competencies that are considered to be generic

and overarching across all occupations. Reynolds and Snell (1988) identify
“meta-qualities” – creativity, mental agility and balanced learning skill – that
they believe reinforce other qualities. Hall (1986) uses the term “meta-skills”
defined as “skills in acquiring other skills”.

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Linstead (1991) and Nordhaug and Gronhaug (1994) use the term “meta-
competencies” to describe similar characteristics.
The concept of meta-competence falls short of providing a holistic model but it
does suggest that there are certain key competencies that overarch a whole
range of others.

There is however, some doubt about the practicability of breaking down the
entity of management into its constituent behaviours (Burgoyne, 1989). This
suggests that the practice of management is, by definition, almost an activity
that should be considered only from a holistic viewpoint.

Managerial effectiveness is a combination of these four critical factors,

Organisational Climate, Managerial Styles, Job Requirements and the Individual
Competencies that the manager brings to the job. Reddin (1970) points out that
'managerial effectiveness' is not a quality but a statement about the
relationship between his behaviour and some task situation. According to
Reddin, it is therefore not possible to discover as fact the qualities of
effectiveness which would then be of self-evident value.

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Previous Research
The need to develop managerial competencies in Asia Pacific
Picket (1998) notes a ‘major survey of global organizations conducted by the
economist Intelligence Unit found that 61 per cent of the respondents from Asia
Pacific area indicated that there was a need to improve management
competencies. They also expressed concern about the need to improve
organizational structure, to better utilize corporate strategy to drive change and
to strengthen the link between strategic intent and day-to-day implementation.
This research design stems from a paper published in the Singapore
Management Review in 1996 by Birchall, Tan and Gay (1996). Building on Gay’s
MPhil thesis of the same title (Gay, 1995) and undertakes to determine whether
there are competencies which are identifiable with effective international

Competences for International Management

Birchall, Tan and Gay (Birchall et al., 1996) used the Job Competences Survey
developed by Dulewicz and Herbert (1992) as a comparison base of UK
managers and international managers based in South East Asia. They
developed an outline model for an International [Managers] Competences
Model. Gay was specifically looking for “differences in the relative importance
which practicing international managers might give to the ranking of
competences which had been carried out with respect to national
managers”(Gay, 1995).

The research uses the JCS model supplemented with suggested specific
competences for international managers derived from his literature review
including the consideration of the influence of cultural differences on the
conduct of international business. Citing the work of Hutton (1988) and
Hofstede (1980), Elashmawi and Harris (1993) and Adler (1986), Gay developed
three additional categories to supplement the JCS including Global Awareness,
Cross-border Cultural Awareness and Foreign Language Skills.
Singapore Public Sector Manager Competences
Chong (1997) builds upon a follow-up study in 1996 by Dulewicz and Herbert to
compare the managerial competences and performance of British managers
with Singaporean public sector managers. As with Gay’s research, this used the
Job Competency Survey. Chong used a proxy for performance – due to
restrictions on data access – of advancement incorporating a number of key
factors drawn from the literature that essentially uses age, number of years
tenure and level in the organisation to establish how advanced the individual
was. In the Singapore public service, such a proxy is suitable as advancement in
the service is largely driven by seniority with the exceptions usually attributed
to higher performance.

Chong noted a significant difference in 7 competences between the

Singaporean high advancement and normal groups. Comparing the
Singaporean managers with the UK managers from Dulewicz and Herbert
studies (1992), Chong identified similarities in ten factors and distinct
competences peculiar to each nationality. UK managers’ competences were in
managing himself with an orientation towards achievement and tenacity
coupled with good business sense. The Singapore civil service manager’s
competences were in analysing problems and taking decisive action. Chong
notes a possible explanation that the civil servant did not, independently, make
decisions which had wider repercussions without first submitting to higher

Chong’s findings reflect the anecdotal evidence and several media articles in
Singapore: “The key issue with Singaporean managers is that they avoid
assuming responsibility whenever possible”; “This is the land of ‘passing the

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Influence of Cultural differences
Sarawano’s (1993) research focus was on the effect of cultural differences on
managerial style and comparing managerial competences exhibited by UK
managers and those by Malaysian managers. Sarawano used Cattel’s 16PF and
a modified Job Competency Survey to facilitate comparison with existing UK
data and compared the results from a sample of Malaysian managers. He puts
forward several hypotheses to predict differences expected between the two
groups largely based principally on Hofstede’s (1980,1991) work on cultural

Sarawano found that the competences most prized in Malaysian managers

largely reflected the anticipated differences in behaviour influenced by the
different cultures of the UK and Malaysia.

These three studies suggest that a generic managerial competency model could
be used to assess both expatriate managers and what makes for a successful
manager in his or her own country – allowing for differences in culture
stemming from national cultures, the organisation culture and the individual’s
cultural heritage.

The three main studies reviewed above used Dulewicz’s Job Competency
Survey. The use of this instrument facilitates comparison with existing data of
UK managers and from these studies as well. Since Chong’s research in 1997, a
number of major global and local events have transpired from the Asia Crisis at
the end of 1997, the US-led global recession, the demise of the dot-com era, 9-
11, the Iraq crises and war and recently the SARS outbreak. These events only
serve to spur the need for Singapore especially to reinvent itself and find new
ways to be and become competitive again. Prof. Terry Garrisson in an interview
in 2001 in Singapore with the Business Times noted that “Singaporeans are
great do-ers… what they need to consider is how they will change from being
able to do things and become people who create things” (Teo, 2001).
Reviewing the results of Chong’s survey using the full JCS and Gay’s IM
instrument, three competencies noted in Chong’s study shown to be distinctive
competencies of Singapore public servants, Reading, Written Communication,
and Integrity are not included in Gay’s instrument. The UK managers showed
distinctive competencies in Business sense, self-management, achievement
orientation and tenacity. These distinctive competencies have face validity to
the author based on seven years experience in Singapore, and would be
expected to be drawn from the forum participants . Furthermore, the
STADA/NTU study below, suggests that important competencies for the new
economy in Singapore must include flexibility and creativity.

Gay (Gay, 1995) identified specific international and cross-border cultural

competencies required by International managers. The specific competencies
may be relevant to an expatriate manager in a senior position in a foreign
country, however it may be considered that all except two of these is either
included implicitly within the full JCS (for example, International Negotiation
adds little to the JCS Negotiation competency), or is unlikely to be relevant to a
middle or junior manager (for example, Building International Teams). The two
that are considered to still be relevant are, Global Awareness and Cultural
Empathy. These are implicitly included in the JCS in Extraorganisational
awareness (Global awareness) and Sensitivity (Cultural empathy).


The Singapore Training and Development Association in conjunction with
Nanyang Technological University undertook a study in 2001 on ‘Managerial
Competencies in a Knowledge-based Economy (KBE) (Rothwell et al., 1999).
This study sought the views of HRD professionals in Singapore on the
implications of the KBE on human resource development.

Of particular interest, this study notes that HRD practitioners in Singapore top
ten competencies needed in a KBE as:
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1Adaptability to changes
2Ability to see the “big picture”
3Communication skills
4Visioning skills
5Knowledge of own strengths and weaknesses
6Creative thinking skills
7Relationship building skills
8Leadership skills
9Consulting skills
10Understanding of improvement in human performance.

Mapping these across to the JCS, it is evident that Gay’s instrument for
International Managers lacks some of the competencies viewed by Singaporean
HRD practitioners as the most important for a KBE. Most notably, Flexibility and
Creativity – two words that are frequently mentioned in the Singapore press and
for Government officials as being [competencies] that Singaporeans need to
develop for the ‘New Economy’ and the new reality.
Singaporeans abroad
Whilst not in the same field of competency research as the others, Tsang (1997)
set out to discover what and how Singaporean companies learn from direct
investment in China (FDIs) and from conducting joint ventures with Chinese
companies. His research design involved a sample of 19 Singaporean
companies with business experience in China; he then carried out
approximately 80 interviews with Singaporean and Chinese managers working
fro these companies. Tsang also examined meeting records and reports. On the
basis of his data, he concluded that Singaporean companies rarely learn much
from their business links in China, although there was considerable evidence of
technological and managerial systems transfer to the Chinese partners. From
the evidence, Tsang inferred a number of reasons

1Singaporeans felt that their systems were superior to those in China and
therefore would learn little from their Chinese partners
2There was little transfer of learning back to the parent company because no

institutional structures were set up for this purpose The interesting

conundrum posed here is that whilst anecdotally, Singaporeans need greater
exposure to management abroad, once back in the home organisation, they
may not put newly developed competencies and capabilities to effective use.

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Findings from this research study
Note on Research Method
The research forums were organised to invite participants already known to the
author through previous business contact. The maximum number of
participants in any forum was not to exceed twelve individuals such that all
participants would have the opportunity to relate their thoughts and opinions in
the time allocated. Participants were introduced to the forum by the author who
established the purpose and definitions for the discussions. For the purpose of
mutual understanding and clarity, a manager was defined as: “Someone with
responsibility for: Money; People; Resources, or any combination of these.”
Participants were asked to consider examples in their experience of a manager
who they considered to be effective and to share what such an individual
knows, does or how they do things that make the participant think they are
effective. Participants were asked to focus, when possible, on positive attributes
of effective managers over negative aspects of less-effective managers. The
discussions were then started by the author asking “What do we mean by
effective?” The sessions were taped in full with the knowledge of the
participants and later transcribed and analysed.

The transcriptions from the sessions were subject to content analysis (Remenyi
et al., 1998) by two individuals, the authors, independently. The analysis was
not commenced until 3 weeks following the sessions to preserve as much
objectivity as possible. This approach allowed themes to emerge of common
understanding across the sessions and between individuals. The richness of the
data was meantime preserved to use as descriptors of the themes. These are
then compared with models from the literature to identify differences found in
emphasis and proposed changes to historical models of effective management.
The discussions in each session were wide-ranging and required minimal
prompting from the facilitator. Occasionally, participants were asked to clarify
their thoughts or provide examples of the behaviour exhibited in order to
ensure understanding. Broadly, discussions developed in three main areas in
each session:
The essential abilities a manager should have – which may be regarded as
threshold competencies
Abilities that set managers’ apart – which may be regarded as competencies
associated with more effective performance
A manager’s reaction to environmental changes – the awareness of the
environment and the flexibility and adaptability to change behaviour in an
appropriate way

The analysis shows that the beliefs and opinions of those participating do not
fall neatly into any existing managerial competencies model. Though the
behaviours described often share similarities with existing models as would be
expected from groups of individuals already familiar with one or more of the
modern ‘accepted thinking’.

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The results of the content and hermeneutical analysis are grouped according to
themes that make intuitive sense and closely resemble similar themes found in
the competency literature. Particular behaviours representing the theme are
shown in terms of whether they are perceived by the participants to be base or
threshold behaviours of an effective manager (or the behaviours that a manger
could demonstrate and remain employed as a manager) and those behaviours
that appear to demonstrate more effective managers (those individuals who
add value to the company and actively seek to retain).

Descriptor Behaviours Base /

Achievement / Achieves the business results (goals, sales BBD
Results targets, financial targets) Completes tasks or
Oriented targets on time Sets own and others’ goals or
Accountability Shows strong commitment to organisation BBBBD
and Prepared to make tough decisions and see
Responsibility them through Help to grow the business and
grow with the business (intellectually and
behaviourally) Able to stand on own feet to
make decisions Take accountability and
responsibility for decisions made

Executive Positive thinker Eye for detail Resourceful BBBBBB

Maturity Analytical Attuned to own potential and B
limitations Prepared to learn from mistakes
and open to continuous self-learning Unafraid
of criticism or feedback
Descriptor Behaviours Base /
Cultural Aware of ‘face’ or ‘guan xi’ issues in dealing BBBBDD
Sensitivity with people from different races Works around
cultural barriers Adopts and adapts the way
business is conducted Respects different
mindsets Enjoys mixed cultural environments
and working in a ‘melting-pot’ Works well with
foreigners and locals

Building and Invests time in building both formal and BBBDD

Managing informal relationships Good at identifying
Relationships others’ strengths and weaknesses Earns trust
Develops and uses skills in influencing,
networking and customer satisfaction Getting
along upwards, downwards and laterally

Communication Able to package and present message Actively BBB

listens to others Shows strong interpersonal
skills and always ready to understand other’s

Team Recognises, understands and uses team BBBBBD

Leadership dynamics, social structure, culture, strengths D
and weaknesses Works and relates well with
people around and aligned with the company
culture and builds consensus Fits in and wants
to belong and contribute Open communication
style Supports and knows where to gain
support Teaches or coaches others Motivates
others and inspires team members

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Descriptor Behaviours Base /
Proactive Self-motivated Seek new opportunities to build BDDD
the business Think and act in putting company
first Deliberately keep an eye on the internal
and external environments and act quickly to
the benefit of the organisation

Independent Plans and organises work Manages and BBBBDD

coordinates resources available to realise
successful achievement of goals Manages own
time Manages expectations and establishing
priorities Overcomes crisis, problems Is
unrestricted in finding new approaches to
problems and thinks out-of-the-box or

Passion Shows ‘Fire-in-the-belly’, hunger, drive to DDDDD

succeed and add value Willing to take risks to D
help company grow Wants to excel Focussed
energy and drive Thrives on challenging self
Shows perseverance and great resilience

Adaptability / Quick to adapt to any kind of environment DDD

Flexibility (company culture, different management
styles, faster-paced business cycles Thrives on
challenges, especially during turbulent times
Adapts to context of internal or external
environment and shows ability to adopt
appropriate personal style to address the
situation at the time
Comparison with other research
Looking at the broad cluster of competencies, there are many similarities
between the model presented in this paper and the models developed by other
researchers – even though different research approaches have been used.
Dulewicz’s ‘supra-competences (Dulewicz, 1992, Dulewicz and Herbert, 1992,
Fletcher and Dulewicz, 1984) (derived from Senior-level managers in the UK)
can be recognised and many of the Hay/McBer Managerial Effectiveness
Competencies (McBer, 1997, Rosen et al., 2000, Spencer and Spencer, 1993)
(derived from US new and middle managers) show strong similarities. Where
this research points us, however, is that a reasonable proportion of the
behaviours and knowledge of an effective manager that were once considered
to be differentiators are now considered to be base or threshold. We may take
this as signs of the highly educated society in which this research is based
and/or the evolution of the art and science of management has now since our
standard expectations.

This research was targeted to understand managers across all levels in

Singapore. The Table below shows the competency clusters identified by
Hay/McBer in the US, Dulewicz in the UK (and used subsequently in two local
studies) and the comparatively recent STADA/NTU study – aligning the clusters
identified in this study with these.

It seems that from our study, an effective manager, at any level, should
demonstrate behaviours often previously associated with senior managers and,
in particular, behaviours that have been more traditionally associated with good
leadership. Notably, proactive behaviours (to some extent identified as
visioning skills by STADA/NTU) and passion. The latter cluster was identified
clearly through the terminology used frequently during the sessions and goes
beyond the leadership qualities usually associated with managers. The term is
more frequently found when describing the more successful CEOs and
entrepreneurs in the press than in academic literature.
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Hay/McBer Dulewicz Stada/NTU This Study
Achievement Achievement Achievement
Orientation Motivation /Results Oriented
Developing Understanding of Team Leadership
Others improvement in
Directiveness Assertiveness & Accountability &
Decisiveness Responsibility
Impact and Persuasiveness Communication Communication
Influence skills Consulting
Interpersonal Interpersonal Relationship Cultural Sensitivity
Understanding Sensitivity building skills Communication

Professionalis Creative thinking Independent

m & Judgement skills
Organisational Strategic Ability to see the Executive Maturity
Awareness Perspective “big picture”
Knowledge of own
strengths and

Team Leadership skills Team Leadership

Adaptability & Adaptability to Adaptability &
Resilience changes Flexibility
Visioning skills Proactive

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The proposed model shows strong resemblances to other well-established
models whilst highlighting particular differences in that cultural sensitivity,
proactivity and passion are not adjunct to but and integral part of effective

The influence of culture cannot be understated within the context of this study.
Here we have generously placed cultural sensitivity alongside interpersonal
sensitivity. Rather than allowing (or adjusting) for cultural differences within
managerial competency models, it was clearly understood by all participants in
the research forums, that the ability to work with others, understand them and
be sensitive to their needs and wants, goes beyond recognising these at each
individual level, that managers need to be sensitive and work across cultures,
those of a national, racial, religious and organisational nature (Hofstede, 1980,
Hofstede, 1991, Sarawano, 1993, Schein, 1992, Trompenaars and Hampden-
Turner, 1993).

The discussions during the sessions though add further emphasis to the
dimension of Adaptability and Flexibility. Granted that the other dimensions are
as important, it is the ability of a manager to adapt to changing situations that
our research identifies as being of paramount importance. This reflects the
findings in Sarawano’s (Sarawano, 1993) research ten years ago, though
perhaps has a greater urgency for development as the world moves ever more
rapidly through economic cycles and crisis.

As the business world continues to become globalised, economically structured

around the knowledge economy and increasingly subject to the whims of
terrorists and nature – adapting to change and maintaining the flexibility to
change according to the situation of the environment and the culture may
indeed prove critical to the manager’s survival.

Copyright ©2003 GAINMORE™ Leadership Advantage – Non-Commercial attribution permitted.

This research is intended as a first new step in understanding the current role of
managers in Singapore and the behaviours expected of them in being effective.
The findings are limited by virtue of the fact that those individuals participating
in the study were already known to the researchers. Those helping us with their
participation may be biased in that they were kind enough to volunteer their
participation and therefore, we presume, interested in the topic.

The facilitation and interpretation of the discussions was undertaken by the

authors, who are directly involved in the business of training managers and
may therefore, be assumed to have personal bias that may have influenced the
objectivity of the findings.

Further Research
The limitations outlined above are partially overcome through the publication of
this document – to which we invite comments and feedback from all
participants and any interested party.

After receiving feedback we intend to refine and revise the model such that a
suitable instrument may be developed that may be tested quantitatively for use
in Asia.
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