If you have aspirations for an executive-level position in your company, there’s a lot you should be doing to boost your chances of success. The main issue with these positions is that they’re highly competitive, and even if you have a good set of skills and a flawless track record in the company, that’s still no guarantee that you’ll be picked in the end. You have to play your cards right at every step and play the political game as much as possible. As annoying as it can be for some people, it’s important for maximizing your chances.
Networking Is Key
And that brings us to the first important point. You can never stop networking. Building a good network of contacts and knowing who you can (and can’t) trust in the company will be instrumental to your success. This is the part that many people dislike about climbing to the top of the corporate ladder. It requires a lot of politics, and not everyone enjoys that dance. But you’ll never be able to get far without a good support structure, and the sooner you realize that, the better. Networking can work on all levels of the company. You don’t have to immediately start trying to get in touch with managers and other high-ranking individuals. Start by building a reputation in your own department and circle of colleagues and take it from there.
Higher Education Can Be of Huge Use
Even if you have a degree, don’t underestimate the benefits of improving your education further and acquiring some new skills that will be specifically relevant to your position of leadership. Consider the OMBA program at the Otto Beisheim School of Management. It’s one of the most advanced degrees for business management available right now, and the fact that it’s provided entirely online can be a huge plus to someone trying to balance their education with a busy career. If you’re looking for a good way to improve your education that will align well with your goals of climbing further up the corporate ladder, this is definitely an option you’ll want to consider. It might take a while to obtain that degree, especially if you give more priority to your work, but the end result will be worth it.
Sometimes it’s not just about the skills your degree will provide you with, either. In some companies, having a certain level of education is pretty much mandatory for being considered for a promotion to certain positions. It can be quite disappointing to find that out late in your career when you can’t do much to change the circumstances, so do everything you can to brush up your profile from early on.
A Balance Between Leadership and Industry-specific Skills
Good executives must understand their own company, as well as the industry they operate in – while also bringing solid leadership skills to the table on top of it all. It’s a fine line to walk, and you’ll constantly have to balance these aspects of your career very carefully if you want to ensure that your skills are properly developed on all fronts. Many people find that they are lacking in one of those areas once they start that climb to the top, and it’s important to understand what your weaknesses are and focus on them from as early on as possible in your career.
Try to Understand Your Business Sector on All Levels
Expanding on what we mentioned earlier about understanding your own company, you should also take a good look at the sector you operate in, and do your best to understand how your company fits into the big picture. This will be a crucial factor in some of the decisions you’ll have to make once you’ve been given some control over the company, and you’ll obviously want to know that you’re making each of those decisions with full consideration of every factor in your industry.
Consulting experts is not a bad option, but it can only take you that far. You can’t rely on the opinions of others forever, and you’ll want to have a deep understanding of your market. This will also improve your immediate chances of climbing up faster, because your knowledge will be recognized by those that matter sooner or later.
Learn to Communicate
A skill that unfortunately gets underestimated by many with ambitions for leadership is the ability to communicate properly. This is much more complicated than most people assume – proper communication is practically an art form. You can go into a lot of detail learning about how to express yourself better, how to listen properly in a conversation, and how to steer discussions in directions more beneficial to you. A good leader must pay a lot of attention to their communication skills, and this is something that you’ll want to start working on from as early as possible.
It can’t hurt to take an advanced course if you want to go through the important concepts faster. Just remember that no matter what you do, you’ll still have to put that theory to practice, and actually work on your communication skills with other people. Practice with your peers and colleagues and ask for feedback when appropriate. It’s not rare that we’re completely oblivious to our own shortcomings when it comes to communicating with others, and you can get some useful insights by asking for honest opinions.
Know How to Optimize
The ability to understand a process and identify shortcomings and opportunities for optimization is crucial for anyone who wants to lead an organization of any size. It doesn’t matter what line of work your company is in; you can always benefit from some advanced optimization skills. This is a huge field nowadays, and you can go into a lot of detail here if you feel like it. Entire methodologies have evolved around the idea of optimizing processes, and it’s a good idea to take some time to go through them and figure out how people across different industries are approaching the problems they face. This will prove useful in any industry and type of business.
You Can Never Stop Learning
Last but not least, the most harmful assumption you can make as someone in this position is that you’re done learning after a certain point. Just because you’ve learned enough to climb up to the position you were after, doesn’t mean that you are done. In fact, when you want to be a leader, you have to come to terms with the fact that learning practically never stops for you. There will always be new trends in your field to follow, new products that can work better, new partners to talk to. If you allow yourself to stop moving even for a little while, this will drag down your performance significantly.
All of this might sound like a lot, and that’s not far from the truth. It’s not easy being a leader, especially in a large company with a lot of politics in play. But it’s an exciting career path, and one that allows you to make some real change in your environment. If you have the talent and potential for it, you should definitely see if you’re a good fit.