Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Political Dimension of Managerial Competencies in Action: An Interview Study in Brazil

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Political Dimension of Managerial Competencies in Action: An Interview Study in Brazil

Article excerpt

The purpose of this qualitative study is to analyze the meaning of managerial competencies in relation to managerial responsibilities to stakeholders. Guided by the interpretative perspective, the experiences of thirteen Chief Executive Officers, each from a different Brazilian company, covering a variety of economic sectors, including food, retail and information technology, were analyzed through one to two-hour semi-structured interviews. The responses of the managers were subjected to a narrative analysis overviewed in terms of a number of predetermined aspects. The results showed that managers do little about the imbalance of interests and when they do, it is to maintain the status quo. They do not see serving interest groups as one of their primary responsibilities and they do not develop management mechanisms to fulfill that purpose. Based on these findings, it is argued that that there is a fragility in the logic of the stakeholder position which may be nothing more than a theoretical construct, or a narrative, with little effect on the reality of how managers make decisions and conduct their actions.


The common tradition in the literature of competencies has a strong functionalist and managerial connotation, occupied with discussing human capacity at work aiming, overall, at individual and collective performance: the productivity of the organization's subjects and groups and the corporation's economic success (Garavan and Mcguire, 2001). However, especially from the 1990s, a concern of another nature begins to emerge in this field's studies, drawing attention to the need to analyze competencies in their ethical-political-societal dimension Burgoyne, 1993; Holland, Ritvo and Kovner, 1997; Cheethan and Chivers, 1998; Ruth, 2006). This broadening of scope and focus is the theme of this article, which specifically problematizes the political dimension of competencies based on an investigation of the relationship between managers in board and presidency positions and their interest groups, known as stakeholders (SHs). It is qualitative research that aimed to discuss competencies from a little-explored perspective, which in the end questions their meaning and purpose: what are competencies for, what are they in service of?

To understand the meaning of the political dimension of competencies, a specific aspect was chosen, the relationship of managers with interest groups, due to the advance of the discourse that the quality of this communication is fundamental for organizations to survive and the growing adoption of sustainable principles guided by socially -responsible relationships. 'In the current context, a company that desires long-term sustamability must have the competency to be an excellent manager of relationship networks between various groups of social actors, also known as stakeholders (Ashley, 2002).

The decision to research Chief Executive Officers (CEO) can be justified by the fact that these actors have the responsibility for creating, establishing parameters for and maintaining relationship networks with the other interest groups. Their role is to provide leadership and management, leading their organizations to solid market positions and building the bases for future growth. It is essential for them to be able to perform their work in a way that meets the growing social imperative deposited on them and the companies they direct, based on a relationship of trust with SHs.

The discourse underlying the SH theory rests on a founding democratic principle, as it proposes coordinating and balancing multiple interests (Carrillo, 2007). Good corporate governance would, in this context, play the role of a protective shield for the various interests at stake in the organizational setting, which would have a direct impact on the organization's decision-making and its very structure, as Carrillo (2007) shows.

Increasingly common initiatives in favor of social responsibility, diversity, inclusion, sustainability in organizations, corporate citizenship, ethics in business, companies' intense effort to present reports emphasizing these actions, added to the high investment in advertising linked to so-called socially -responsible actions, signal an increasingly complex setting for the manager to act in (Carroll and Schwartz, 1998). …

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