If you have worked, and grown through the ranks, in a corporate sector, you would realize that the skills that took you to the top management position are not the same set of skills that would keep you there. And for many people, this often comes as a surprise when reality sets in.
Over the weekend, I spent my Saturday morning discussing with a friend who has been promoted to a top-level management position in one of the Telecoms companies in Nigeria. It has been a worry for her because she’s been grappling with the set of skills to survive in that shark-infested level. Just one month in her new position has opened her eyes to new levels of organizational reality.
In a Junior level position in organizations, your technical skills will make you (extremely) important because those skills are needed to keep the wheels of the organization moving effectively. You would also realize that many people possess this same set of technical skills. But as you progress through the organizational ranks, you would realize that technical skills are less needed.
In mid-level management positions, leadership and sound administrative skills are considered more than technical skills. Herein this level, you will be assigned some juniors to work under you. And their degree of performance is almost dependent on your leadership and admin skills. That’s why performance management is important at this level.
But as you grow into a top management position, everything changes. Your technical and leadership skills will become almost rampant because everyone at that level possesses these two skills. What then will make you stand out? What skills will make you gain an advantage and be considered to lead an important top-level management position?
Here is the main thing. Top-level management positions require a lot of soft skills. Your administrative skills have done their jobs to push you to this level. Here, you must possess good interpersonal skills. You must also possess the sound ability to read through people and understand office politics. Your tact and social intelligence must be brought to the fore. While your brilliance is to be shone, you must also try not to outshine your master. Sometimes, this is why people are fired when they have gotten to the top in many organizations.
During office parties or dinners, never dress more than the powers that be. If your spouse is more pretty or handsome than the boss’s spouse, it will do you good to ask them to tone down their appearance when invited to official parties and dinners. Your bosses and their spouses must be regaled like kings. All attention and praises must be given to them.
At this level, your looks, grooming, and dress sense will also be highly considered. This is why you will never see a not-too-good-looking person representing an organization in top-level meetings, dinners, and meetings overseas. You must look the part. People are drawn to others by looks before they listen to what they have to say. A look at the CEOs of top organizations in the world will reveal this basic truth.
Finally, you must possess executive presence and charisma. You must exude confidence and communicate fluently. You must be the kind of person other employees would love to call their leader. Simply put, you must look like a leader.
Note that the top-level position is not for everyone. This is why most organizations leave people in mid-level management positions for many years without promoting them despite their brilliance and dedication. The simple reason might just be that they don’t look the part. Or don’t fit into the cultural fitness of the organization. If you want to remain at the top level of your organization, your best bet is to earn and make use of your soft skills.