What Are Your Core Competencies?

Article excerpt

What are Your Core Competencies?

Leadership for the Future: Core Competencies in Healthcare (2002). Austin Ross, Frederick J. Wenzel, and Joseph W. Mitlyng. Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Chicago: Health Administration Press. 389 pages hardcover. $60.

In the foreword to this book, Howard Zuckerman describes healthcare as undergoing continuous change characterized by turbulence, volatility, and uncertainty. So true! The health sector represents about half of the SRA's members and a large segment of all research dollars. In the past 40 years, we have witnessed the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the evolution of health insurance from catastrophic hospital care to health promotion and prevention services. We have moved from initiatives of expanded access to mandatory cost controls and capitated incentives of managed care and reduced lengths of stay, to the shifting policy arenas of state government and business purchasers. I believe we all have much to learn from the health sector and leadership competencies is one application of skills that research administrators might find useful.

Management exists in the context of its organization, but the pace, dependence on technology, and culture have several points of similarity in any business sector. Even if your area of research administration does not deal with health, you will discover applicable lessons about leadership and the core competencies needed for a dynamic 21st century in the recent book by Ross, Wenzel and Mitlyng.

Competencies are driven by an organization's environment, competitors, and constituencies. This book recognizes the organizational history and culture, system factors, personal leadership abilities, and key knowledge areas that form the base upon which competence develops in management and executive teams. Personal leadership skills often transcend the field of practice and include core competencies such as decision-making, risk-taking, mentoring, team-building, and conflict resolution. The authors use a case-study format to build a foundation of common scenarios and discussion material as a way to motivate self-assessment.

Chapter 1 reviews the evolution of healthcare management but those in other sectors could create a similar milestone progression. Leaders must be developed and the authors reviewed literature from the past 20 years to identify key traits for leadership. Executives do not need personal competence in every area but they must create a well-rounded management team with an essential core of knowledge and abilities. Chapter 2 is a very brief review of competencies as they appeared in the 1980s and progressed to the current period. Core competencies (behaviors or performance) are described as a set of interrelated skills that are defined, characterized, and broadly applicable across an environment. The essential elements of the leader include creating a vision, energizing people, setting direction, and selecting a course of action. Research into critical core competencies in healthcare by Hudak et al. in 1997 (p.27) enumerated six subsets or domains of management knowledge that form a critical core: leadership and strategy, relationships, resource, functional, stakeholder, and patient care or customer. Physician research identified performance domains that specified financial, human resources, planning and marketing, information, and risk management as well as governance, business operations, and professional responsibility. Academic programs in health administration listed six key areas of competence, namely, leadership, critical thinking, analytic competence, management competence, political and community development, and communications competence. Thus, the leadership domains converge.

Part II moves from general background to organizational (system) competence and includes Chapters 3 through 10. Governance, the focus of chapter 3, is an excellent review of the role of the board in carrying out the mission, vision, and strategic planning without getting into management. …