The pioneering concept of competencies by McClelland (1973) underlines importance of the criteria connected with the fulfilment of special tasks. The emphasis put on the behaviour pattern is the starting point of the so-called behavioural model of competencies. In accordance with this model, the competent person knows how to behave in order to achieve the appointed task, can undertake the proper actions and wants to behave in a special manner (Vazirani, 2010). This approach towards competencies concentrates on different patterns of behaviour, attitudes and abilities of people achieving high effectiveness in their work (Rankin, 2001). They are observable and measurable, being apparent in behaviour.

Competencies are not so stable as personality treats or temperament, they can be modified and developed (Pervin, 2003). They are built-up on the basis of the previous experience both in the professional and day-to-day life. Experiences that help to develop competencies can be planned with the intention to do so or occasional, accidental (cf. Raven & Stephenson, 2001). Boyatzis (1982) defines competencies as a potential that exists in a person. That potential leads to such a pattern of behaviour that contributes to the fulfilment of a job requirements in the organizational environment, which in turn gives the demanded results. Managerial competencies are understood as observable characteristics such as knowledge, skills or behaviour patterns, that contribute to the successful fulfilment of managerial tasks (van Beirendonck, 2004; Markman, 2007).

Over four hundred competencies that are named can be found in the literature (cf. Armstrong, 2007). There are also many proposals of grouping them. There are considered two major groups of them, which are necessary to act successfully in the managerial position

  • The first, general competencies which refer to universal characteristics, personality variables, patterns of behaviours and values that are essential not only for every managerial position but also in day-to-day life. For example, a creative approach to solving problems or the skill to make social contacts are useful in many different situations. They enable people to adapt to the new situations and circumstances in a flexible way (McClelland, 1973, Raven, 1984).
  • The second group, specific competencies which refer to skills, knowledge and basic principles in the area of SMEs management. They refer to the specific aspects of management like finance, advertising or logistics. The competencies essential for the given company are determined by the interaction between the requirements of the professional role and the qualities of a person that fulfils this role (Raven & Stephenson, 2001).

There is no absolute agreement about what exact competencies should characterize an effective manager (cf. Adair, 2005). It is partly due to unclear definitions of an effective manager and in addition the term “manager” itself is ambiguous. According to Boyatzis (1982) managerial competencies are characteristics of a person that manages a company or a team of workers, they contribute to a very good fulfilment of a job. Ng and colleagues (2005), suggest that individuals competence and worth to the company are essential for predicting career success measured objectively and shall to be included into theoretical models explaining career success. However the role of competencies in entrepreneurial activity and business success shall to be still investigated. As stated by Markman (2007, p. 67): “Although past literature on individual differences in entrepreneurship is instructive, it offers neither an inclusive theory nor practical guidance regarding what competencies are needed to start a new company” and we can add: and succeed in business activity.

This is an excerpt from the article „Competencies of small and medium sized enterprises’ managers and their business success Managerial competencies” (Authors:  Mariola Laguna, Michal Wiechetek, Wieslaw Talik).