What does it take to be a top leader?
Top management positions, mainly in multinational companies, represent a goal for 83% of the employees within the age group of 23 – 40, according to a study made by Friisberg & Partners Romania, of 150 Bucharest-based subjects.
The career path towards a top management position invariably goes through middle management ones, yet the abilities and knowledge necessary for a top management role can be different.
Which are the differences between a middle management position and a top management one?
Following a study on a focus group of 52 middle and top managers, as well as from our own experience in the market, we came to the following conclusions:
- A middle manager must be both, people and result oriented, proficient in a specific field of activity, as well as a good manager. He/she must pay attention to details, know how to build up and motivate a team, be able to transmit to the people they lead the vision, values and organization culture communicated by the top management, as well as to offer support and coaching. A middle manager should be more focused towards increasing the efficiency of processes and results.
- In order to reach the next level, a top manager position, the middle manager must be able to detach from the details and see the big picture. At this stage, the big picture’s importance is higher than the details’. An excellent understanding of all processes within the company is compulsory, no matter the field one comes from.
- In order to move forward to a top management position, one needs strategic vision, an exquisite understanding of the economical, political and social macro-climate, a detailed know-how of the market in which the company activates, its competitors and market trends, in general. Data interpretation, correlation and solution identification have a vital impact on the company.
- A top manager takes part at the board meetings, participates in creating the company’s strategy, sets medium and long term goals. As the top manager must have a long term vision and strategy, the middle manager is concerned with short to medium term goals. In short, the top manager creates strategy and the middle manager implements it. The top manager defines results while the middle manager insures that these results are achieved.
- At top management level it does not matter that much the field you are active in, the focus is on result, P&L and strategy creation. A top management position offers multiple advantages, as financial ones, recognition and visibility, access to information, working with more professional and experienced people, but it also implies certain risks.
- A top management position translates into higher visibility, which also applies to any made mistake. On the one hand it’s a position that offers more recognition for achievements, on the other hand, any decision that fails to reach set goals or brings any form of prejudice to the company is as easily seen by co-workers and superiors (ex: share holders).
- The power of decision increases at an exponential level, as higher one is set in the company structure. Thus, any mistake made has a stronger impact. But it is a risk worth being taken as a top management position allows more liberty in using one’s experience and years’ long accumulated know-how. In a multinational company this is generally the case. In smaller size companies the General Manager takes the majority of high level decisions.
In the end it is a personal decision, one makes in his/her career path.
Aiming to become a top manager means more than education, experience and data accumulation. It means even more than long work hours and sacrifices made. Becoming a top manager also means a higher degree of decision making in regards to putting to work one’s business vision.
Our study reveals not only the aspirations and goals of professionals in the market, but also a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a top manager.
Although native abilities are important, in order to successfully walk in the shoes of a top manager, one needs years of experience, a profound market understanding and, most of all, a business vision.