Historically, competency is a responsibility or ability. Nowadays many more exact and different definitions of the term can be found. Prof. Dr. John Erpenbeck, Chair of Competency Management at the School of International Business and Entrepreneurship (SIBE) of the Steinbeis University Berlin, describes competencies as the „ability for self-organized, creative acting in open and unknown situations“. According to Erpenbeck this ability is supported by the technical knowledge. A competency can therefore be described as the conscious solution of unknown problem situations with the help of learned knowledge and internalized rules, values and norms.
There are two different competency concepts in the English language. Here a distinction is made between Competence and Competency. Competence describes the colloquial perception of a competent person. Thus, purely cognitive factors are relevant, which are measurable in the classical sense, for example the PISA competences. Competency extends this cognitive definition to include non-cognitive factors such as the character and temperament of a person.
Competencies develop always and everywhere, steadily and unconsciously, e.g. in sports or work, says Silke Keim, former Head of Competency Management at SIBE. Through training, however, a targeted (further) development is also possible. Prof. Dr. Erpenbeck describes this training as development through learning and applying. A person should experience „emotionally uncertainty“, affected by unknown situations being pulled out from their own comfort zone. In the conscious application of knowledge, rules, values and norms, to solve a problem, in such an uncomfortable situation, competencies are being (further) developed.
Managers should have different competencies, depending on the source you consult, even the number differs. Spencer and Spencer speak of about 200 competencies, while McClelland assumes 100 skills that a leader should possess. Based on a survey of executives in 2012, SIBE has developed 16 competencies that are necessary to be successful. These include, for example, result-oriented action, teamwork or assertiveness. The so-called SIBE management competencies will be further developed within the framework of the study model of SIBE, the Experience Based Curriculum (EBC). Silke Keim studied this development during her doctoral studies at the Ludwig-Maximillians University Munich. She evaluated nearly 1000 KODEx tests to show how the competencies of the study concept are trained. KODEx is a procedure in which the individual use of competences is measured by self-assessments and external assessments.
Competencies and their targeted development are becoming increasingly important for executives in the future. „Before, when I knew something, I had the power. Today, many people have access to knowledge,“ says Keim. „An executive does not have to be an expert anymore, but above all be able to lead people. Thus, he/she has to be able to demonstrate the appropriate competencies in (result-) open situations,“ continues Keim. The basic prerequisites for becoming an executive will change in the future. There is already an ongoing shift from knowledge to competencies.