Helping Mid-Level Managers Become Top Company Leaders

Operating a successful business requires both proficient management and adept leadership, but even good managers can lack the skills necessary to run a business.

Why is this so often the case?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the different skillsets required to transition into an executive leadership position and how you can help your mid-level managers bridge the gap.

What Is a Manager?

A manager is someone who is in charge of a specified group of tasks or a particular branch of a larger company.

Managers often have employees who report to them. They are typically responsible for the day-to-day workings of a business and frequently must direct a team or teams of people to accomplish the goals of the business owner. In short, they are working “in” the business instead of working “on” it. Their main job is to keeping things running smoothly, enabling the owner to concentrate on working “on” the business.

What Is a Leader?

A leader is a person who exerts influence over others, regardless of whether that person has a formal title or authority. There is often someone at work who employees default to when they have questions or need a sounding board. Whether this person is acting in an official capacity or not, he or she is a leader.

Leaders communicate clearly, teach effectively, facilitate trust and loyalty, and are capable of seeing the “bigger picture” when it comes to business. Some of these skills are necessary at the management level, but true leaders require fewer specialized skillsets and more of a “bigger picture” understanding of how their decisions will impact the business as a whole.

Helping Managers Bridge the Gap

To help a developing leader move into the leadership mindset, provide them with mentors. Whether you use internal or external help, this is a critical component for success. Start involving new leaders in the planning stages of projects, introduce them to new groups within the company or community, include them in meetings at higher levels, and have them attend training conferences and seminars. Sharing knowledge with others is one of the most effective ways to learn and develop, so have them mentor and teach others as well.

Common Roadblocks

When moving from management into leadership, one of the primary adjustments that must take place is the shift from a specialist mindset to that of a generalist. Managers have lots of specific technical knowledge, while leaders should know just enough about all functions and departments to successfully run the business.

Leaders must be able to make decisions that will benefit the company as a whole. They should be able to speak the language of each function and provide translation when needed. Perhaps most importantly, leaders must be able to assess prospective talent effectively so they can place the right people in the positions, even without having deep personal expertise in those functional areas.

Another common roadblock for new managers-turned-leaders is shifting from the role of a managerial problem-solver to that of an agenda-setter. Business leaders must concentrate less on solving specific problems and more on determining which problems the business should tackle.

Embracing Empathy

Drs. Nikolaos Dimitriadis and Alexandros Pyschogios are the authors of a new book, Neuroscience for Leaders, which claims that becoming a good leader merely involves retraining our thought patterns. Rather than suppressing the emotional brain and attempting to be 100 percent rational all the time, leaders are encouraged to nurture their emotions and respond with empathy.

This approach is based on the neuroscientific understanding that the brain is mainly a social organ and that a healthy brain is nearly always emotional. The authors suggest that leaders learn to accept and embrace the emotional side of leadership instead of trying to ignore or remove it, arguing that exercising empathy in leadership engenders stronger connections within teams, improved signs of confidence, and better long-term business outcomes for everyone.

Contact CMOE today to learn more about transitioning mid-level managers into top leaders.

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About the Author


CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.