The Higher You Rise as a Manager, the Less Your Own Success is about the Work You Accomplish

It is somewhat ironic that people tend to get promoted and rise to higher positions in organizations based on their technical skills, yet the higher up they go, the less their success is about their technical skills! This is a tough realization for some of us because our professional identity and sense of worth often come from our ability to bring value to an organization through our ability to complete tasks.

For example, even “C level” executives came from somewhere. At one time, they were technical experts in finance or marketing or HR, etc. A CFO was once a staff accountant or analyst. A COO was once a project manager or engineer or some other specialist. However, the more senior a manager is, the more his or her success is about making OTHER people effective in their jobs than it is about the technical tasks he or she completes.

A senior leader’s primary job is to create an environment in which others can thrive. Sometimes this means removing obstacles or providing resources. Sometimes it is about coaching or mentoring. And sometimes it is even about teaching one’s technical skills to others, but a senior manager’s success is rarely about completing technical tasks. In fact, if a CFO is populating data in a monthly transmittal or a Sr. VP of HR is filling out work schedules, then the organization is probably not getting very good value for its investment in the manager!

So, in support of your own success, make sure that every day you are focused on what you can do that will make those around you more successful. Give your subordinates appropriate autonomy and the freedom to fail, then empower them with material support, moral support, and confidence–and get out in front of them, clearing obstacles from their path!


Leave a Reply