Leadership Skills: The Mindset Challenge of Moving Up

As you move up the corporate ladder, four changing realities demand that you develop new mindsets. People who fail to make these adjustments either never make it to the top or have limited success when they get there

  1. First, the higher you move on the organizational chart, the longer the time horizon on which you must focus. Early in a management career your decisions revolve primarily around things that will happen in the next 30 days or perhaps the next quarter. Then you move into positions where you are charged with decisions centered on the next six months or a year. By the time you reach the highest levels of management, you are responsible for decisions that will have continuing impact for years to come.
  2. Second, because the time horizon for your decisions becomes more protracted, your decisions must rely on far more ambiguous data. Early in management careers you can usually draw on substantial amounts of detailed data to defend the rationale for your decision. Once the time horizon for your decisions stretches years into the future, there is far less hard data to depend on. Here your instincts, experience, and "gut" become your guide in knowing the right thing to do.
  3. Closely related to the longer time horizon for your decisions, your thinking must shift from tactical to strategic. I define strategic decisions as those that make for the sustained survivability, strength, and success of the organization. At lower levels of management, where tactics are the order of the day, there's not much call for evaluating the long-term sustainability of decisions. At top management, sustainability can never be ignored.
  4. The fourth change is that your decisions have an expanded ripple effect. No longer do they merely impact the people reporting to you. Your decisions now can have far-reaching effect on very distant elements of the organization. As a result, whether you care for corporate politics or not, you must master it. You must become adept at mustering far-flung leadership in the organization around your initiatives. Otherwise, those who were not consulted or whose needs were not given due consideration in your decision-making are likely to be unhappy. And further, they are likely to do their utmost to sabotage you or your initiative.

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