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Becoming a leader in business: Mastering the paradox

Talented professionals who want to move into management and then onto the higher levels of leadership find themselves facing an interesting paradox. First, they find that they lack some of the tools required for management. They may be masters of their niche within the company, but they need to address gaps in their skills when thinking about how to become a manager.

But the next step – becoming a leader – is something of a paradox. It is not as much about specific skills as it is about understanding the bigger picture and how to guide an organization. We will look at some examples to illustrate these points.

The required tools

Managers are always looking for smart and motivated employees who are ready to advance. However, when these individuals are selected for their first management positions, they quickly realize that they do not have some of the analytical skills that are required to excel at their new position. They are pulled out of their comfort zone where they are challenged with assignments that stretch their abilities.

For example, individuals who have spent their careers mostly in production may not have the background in financial or legal topics that are needed to advance through the levels of management. This prompts many people in this position to begin thinking about a Master of Business Administration degree.

An online MBA will cover these topics and others, such as project management, trade policy, marketing and more. They also cover current trends in business. Courses like these give new managers the knowledge they need to work with higher-level managers and advance to those positions themselves.

The broader vision

The interesting part of advancing through management into higher leadership positions is that the vision changes. Instead of operating the individual "levers" that make a department run, they need to start thinking strategically about the larger organization. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Michael Watkins described this as transitioning from "bricklayer to architect."

When starting down the road of becoming a leader, MBA courses such as design thinking and strategic management, business plan development, and business foundations play an important role. Being able to associate with other professionals who are also working hard to advance their careers is extremely valuable as well. The communication and interaction you have with these people help you establish your "business persona" or your image as a business leader. This becomes increasingly important as you move into the higher echelons of leadership.

Turning the corner

With all the demands that business managers and leaders face today, few are able to advance far with only on-the-job experience. An MBA is an invaluable asset in "turning the corner" on becoming a leader and starting down a path that leads to the "C-suite" positions.


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