IN TODAY’S highly competitive world, many managers aspire to be senior managers. But who are senior managers, what do they do and how did they get to where they are?

High-fliers

Senior managers are high-level executives who actively participate in the daily supervision, planning and administrative processes required by a business to help meet its objectives. 

They have titles such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, executive vice-president, senior vice-president and so on. 

Senior managers are driven individuals. Even in relatively modest and ordinary organisations, they are likely to see the need for continuous personal and professional development. 

In short, they not only wield the power, authority and responsibility, but their developmental needs are also continuous.
 
Skills

Senior managers possess highly refined organisational and execution skills. These are often accompanied with high levels of emotional and social intelligence to network effectively, motivate staff and move the organisation in the direction that they want.  

What make them effective senior managers are their highly specialised skills, extensive industry or specialist knowledge complemented by an exceptionally wide network of contacts. 

They are global in their outlook and appreciate the diversity of people and cultures.
They are not just technically competent but also have high fluency in people skills, relationship management, analytical probing, strategic and critical thinking. 

Instead of just focusing on prioritisation, time management and other managerial competencies, they also engage in energy management and other holistic approaches to challenges and people management. 

Need for management development

Potential senior managers strive for professional and personal development. 

They therefore seek coaching and mentorship from individuals who have experienced setbacks and failures. 

They want to harness the experience of facing pitfalls and dealing with obstacles, so that they can develop strategies and action plans to deal with them if they encounter them. 

They also seek coaches with a wide variety of expertise. In addition, they read widely on the latest research on human performance and technological advances in workplace situations.


Becoming a senior manager

One way to develop your senior manager competencies is to be aware of all the business and technical issues your organisation may be facing.

Pick a couple of issues and look at them from as many angles as possible. Acquire expertise in them through research and training.

Get actively involved in relevant projects that are beyond your normal or regular scope of work.

You will soon earn a reputation as the expert on these issues in your organisation, and get noticed by senior management.

Senior managers need strategic thinking skills and outstanding leadership capabilities. They therefore clamour for well-skilled, experienced and knowledgeable coaches and mentors.

Increase your visibility

As a career coach, I have met managers who think they have the mettle and the “right stuff” to be senior managers.

Yet, they have been passed over for a younger, more adept and versatile young colleague, who overtakes them to the senior manager position.

Many managers tend to deprecatingly attribute the success of these “youngsters” to the ubiquitous MBA (Master of Business Administration) and youth.

But if you look closely at the track record of these so-called “young upstarts”, you will see a list of activities they were engaged which are not directly linked to their work.

Some boast involvement in alumni organisations, others list organising seminars and events for their professional body.

Others are actively involved in fund-raisers or social causes. Look closely and you will notice they were also involved in special teams or task forces for their former employers or community groups.

Being promoted to a senior management position in today’s work world is not part of normal progression in your career.

It needs strategic effort with a long-term perspective to build a track record that you can present in your resumé and talk about at interviews and networking events.

You must demonstrate dedication and diligence not only to your employer and profession but to the community at large as well.

Article by Kamal Kant, a part-time lecturer in career, employment relations and management courses at Nanyang Technological University & SIM Global Education.