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Managerial skills: what has changed since the late 1980s

William A. Gentry (Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Lauren S. Harris (University of Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Becca A. Baker (JCPenney Co., Plano, Texas, USA)
Jean Brittain Leslie (Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




This paper aims to show how changes in the workplace may have coincided with shifts in the importance of managerial skills over the past 15 years and to identify managerial skills needed at different levels and functions in today's work context.


This study, using survey methodology, is within the context of field research using 7,389 managers from 1988‐1992 and 7,410 managers from 2004‐2006.


Managerial skills important in the 1980s are relevant today. However, the importance of “relationships,” “administrative/organizational ability” and “time management” shifted over the last 15 years. This paper also identifies which managerial skills are important at different levels and across different functions of an organization in today's work environment.

Research limitations/implications

Asking managers to choose which skills are important, rather than asking how important each skill is, may be a limitation. Future research should also consider the importance of managerial skills from a boss, peer, or direct report perspective.

Practical implications

The results have implications for training and development, selection and succession planning.


This study is unique since it uses the opinions of practicing managers totaling more than 14,000 over two distinct time periods to determine whether certain skills important (or not important) in the past are still important (or not important) today, and whether the importance of certain managerial skills has changed over a 15‐year period, and what skills are important across managerial levels and functions in today's organizational and work context.



Gentry, W.A., Harris, L.S., Baker, B.A. and Brittain Leslie, J. (2008), "Managerial skills: what has changed since the late 1980s", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 167-181.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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