Don't get stuck in middle management - advance to the executive level
After years of working successfully in middle management, you feel ready to take on the next challenge: Advancing to the C-suite. However, getting there is easier said than done. So what actions do you need to take to grow from a manager to a true leader?
Understand what true leadership entails
At its core, management involves executing on company strategy by building and leading a cohesive team. True leadership is inherently different because it requires you to function at a higher level. You need to have a vision of your company’s mission and be able to develop strategies to achieve objectives that further that mission. Furthermore, you’re accountable to all levels of your organization, as well as to the public, and you’re responsible for inspiring your people through even the most difficult times.
Know the playing field
Regardless of your company’s objectives, it will encounter challenges and opportunities depending on internal and external forces. You need to develop an in-depth understanding of the playing field in order to develop effective strategies to help your company advance.
Form strategic alliances
In order to function in upper management, you need to develop strategic alliances with individuals who can help you gain more insight. In the Forbes article “Reach the Executive Level With These 17 Leadership Tips,” Alan Trivedi recommends finding a knowledgeable mentor who understands your organization and can help you acquire the in-depth knowledge required of an executive.
Enhance your unique value
Professionals at the executive level are all highly qualified, so you need to determine what sets you apart and offers extra value to your organization. Perhaps you have an extensive network of high-value contacts, or maybe you’re a technology visionary — whatever your special characteristic is, work hard to enhance it.
Increase your circle of influence
To be effective in the C-suite, you need the support of your peers, direct reports, and employees alike. This involves becoming more visible — which you can do by volunteering for specific projects or initiatives — and gaining people’s trust by consistently being the best leader you can be.
Support your company’s culture
As Cassandra Frangos points out in her article “How to Get on the Shortlist for the C-Suite” in Harvard Business Review, you have to be a good cultural fit to make it to the top. That’s why it’s advisable to assess whether or not you clearly support your company’s culture. If necessary, make some adjustments to your career planning. Even if you determine you’re not quite the perfect fit, it doesn’t mean you can’t take on an executive role elsewhere.
Positions in the C-suite are few and far between. It could take a long time before one becomes available in your organization — and then there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the job. That’s why it’s wise to always be open to other opportunities that might come along. If your efforts to become a true leader haven’t gone unnoticed, another company might offer you the position you want.
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