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Being a great manager doesn't automatically translate into becoming a great leader. That distinction is often lost on middle managers who hope to transition into senior leadership roles, which require a much higher-level skill set than their current job demands. Your chances of realizing that dream depend on whether you communicate a clear agenda while showing a willingness to take risks and treat subordinates fairly -- especially when you give feedback they may not want to hear.
Senior managers are the front line in helping companies achieve their goals and objectives. If lower-level employees don't follow through, you must expect to hold them accountable, advises Leadership Consultant Susan Tardanico in a January 2013 "Forbes" magazine column. Strong leaders also understand the value of retraining or terminating poorly performing employees to protect the organization's long-term viability and business reputation. By contrast, managers who allow such problems to fester lose the confidence and respect to function effectively.
Leading by Example
Without character, the greatest corporate leader won't accomplish much. Smart leaders appreciate that consistent, fair practices influence how employees and colleagues perceive them, Executive Coach Patty Vogan states for "Entrepreneur" magazine. If you're not sure how you measure up, consider undergoing a style assessment. One of the most popular is the 360-degree model, which allows co-workers to critique your managerial style. Senior leaders who ignore the resulting feedback stand little chance of motivating employees to rise above mediocrity.
Great leaders thrive on leading organizations through challenging climates. When a company's initiatives, products and services aren't providing sufficient returns on investment, effective senior managers act quickly to correct the situation -- though the fallout may be messy, Tardanico observes. This quality is especially necessary in struggling companies, where fear of the unknown provides sufficient incentive to preserve the status quo. Instead of performing endless analyses, however, strong leaders aren't afraid to make risky decisions that move the organization forward.
Humility is an essential building block in any great management style. Becoming an outstanding manager means giving credit where credit is due because you're well aware you can't do everything alone, according to "HR World." Instead of clinging to her status, a strong leader is willing to spread her success throughout the organization -- and takes the blame for failures. She understands the importance of promoting her team's talent, which strengthens organizational morale and cohesion.
Employees don't want to guess where an organization is going. Senior managers must alleviate such doubts by offering a vision that's clear and easily understood yet consistent with a company's goals and objectives, Vogan states. To check if everyone thinks on the same page, ask fellow managers for their perceptions of the company's vision. Great managers also understand the necessity of adapting that vision as public taste changes. Otherwise, a company risks losing touch with the original customer base it needs to survive.
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.