Management Competencies: Intrinsic or Acquired? What Competencies Are Required to Move into Speech Pathology Management and Beyond?

Article excerpt


Speech pathology managers frequently move into careers beyond their clinical discipline. As practicing speech pathology managers and students of business leadership, we were curious about the nature of career transitions out of speech pathology management. We conducted an exploratory, descriptive study investigating the perceived competencies that facilitate such career transitions and when further education is required to effectively equip one for such transition. The perceived skills related to a speech pathology background are identified along with the gaps in competence for moving into general management positions. Career management practices that facilitate this type of career transition are provided as recommendations for career planning.


The idea of a 'job for life' is outmoded with the likelihood that individuals will now pursue several distinct careers during their working lives (Bolles, 1994). As careers change and health organisations metamorphose, it is imperative that allied health practitioners are equipped with the necessary competencies to negotiate their career path. As practicing speech pathology managers and students of business leadership, we were curious about why many skilled and knowledgeable speech pathology managers leave the profession and move into senior management roles.

In addition to a minimum skill/knowledge base required by all practicing speech pathologists (CBOS, 2001), our sense was that speech pathologists possess a specific range of non-clinical competencies, intrinsically related to the focus of their clinical profession. We were interested in how these competencies equipped managers to work in a wide range of areas beyond speech pathology. We also wanted to explore when and how this group of health professionals accessed further education to assist their career transitions.

Our two research questions were:

* What competencies enable people to make the transition from speech pathology clinician to speech pathology manager and then into more senior health management roles?

* What career management practices would facilitate this career transition?

Competencies defined

Competency Based Occupational Standards exist for the speech pathology profession (CBOS, Speech Pathology Australia 2001) and competencies are discussed at length in the management and leadership literature (Currie and Darby 1995, Fine 2002, Gardner 1999 &Tyler 2003).

Thorpe, Taylor and Elliot (1997 p154) described the confusion regarding definitions of competencies well when they noted "Defining competence is far from simple and has caused much debate". The generic definition of competency is the integration of knowledge, attitudinal change and practical skill development (Thorpe et al 1997). Gonczi (1999) extends this concept by defining it as the synthesis of a set of attributes (knowledge, skills, values and attitudes), used in various combinations and permutations to complete an occupational task. Quinn, Faerman, Thompson and McGrath (1996 p24) define competence as "the possession of knowledge and the behavioural capacity to act appropriately".

One of the major criticisms of competency-based approaches to management development has been the idea that the development of a set of competencies for a particular occupational task such as management or leadership simplifies what is essentially a complex process. There is a real danger that competency approaches to leadership reduce a complex task into a behaviourist checklist (Gonczi 1999, Cunningham 1997, Thorpe et al 1997).

Gonczi (1999) addresses these criticisms and proposes an integrated approach to competency-based learning. This approach promotes the concept of "competent performance" as opposed to "competence as performance". The hallmarks of this approach are that competence is not static, but evolves as the context changes and as the individual develops within the workplace. …