How to Cultivate Senior Management Skills

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

By AMA Staff

Edward T. Reilly, chief executive officer of American Management Association International, assembled a book for new and experienced leaders titled AMA Business Boot Camp. Let me share with you some of the helpful advice to be found in the book. Here are some “Action Items” assembled to help managers cultivate senior management skills, like:

  • Develop a strategic frame of reference. It will guide you through the maze of opinions that can occur with difficult problems. It will help you get an organized sense of goals, tasks, roles, relationships, and what constitutes progress.
  • Practice using a SWOT analysis. It will focus your team on the areas where you are collectively strong and the areas that need work, as well as what factors and situations may currently, or in the future, lead to opportunities or problems.
  • Make sure your team understands that you need an honest ranking of what needs to be fixed to meet the expectations of your stake builders. By the same token, encourage them to be forthright in admitting “we’re doing too much of this, and not enough of that.” That’s not cause for punishment; it’s cause for correction.
  • Conduct a self-assessment. Part of strengthening your leadership abilities involves knowing your natural leadership style. Standardized tools such as the MBTI® can help you to gain insights about your tendencies and then build on that knowledge. Self-assessment regarding how senior management and your direct reports see you, and why they see you that way, will also give you a baseline on your leadership characteristics.
  • Communicate clearly, with facts and inspiration. Tell your direct reports not only what’s going on, but also help them understand why they should feel motivated to perform at their peak.
  • Stay alert to generational differences among your direct reports. Their values, perceptions of workplace priorities, and behavior can differ markedly. Nevertheless, it’s your job to cultivate enough common focus that everyone wants to move in the same direction.
  • Leverage your leadership style by tweaking it, as necessary, for your various audiences. You don’t want to appear to be different people; rather, you want different people to relate to your leadership appropriately and notice how consistent you are as a leader.
  • Use body language to your advantage. Both movements and vocal characteristics send signals about your level of confidence, interest in other people and openness to their ideas, energy for the task at hand, and even your integrity.
  • Keep the rules of enlightened office politics handy. It is rare, indeed, for an office to have such interpersonal harmony that conflicts and tensions never arise.
  • Always remember the part of leadership involves motivation. Just as everyone in your workplace doesn’t want to eat the same thing for lunch, neither do they want the same speech or same perk as a route to motivation. Never just dismiss employees who appear to stall all the time or complex regularly they may have an odd way of showing it, but it’s possible that’s their way of saying, “I want to contribute as much more.”
  • Be mindful of your network. Know your allies, that is, the people who can help you effect changes in the workplace, implement plans, and raise the level of commitment among your employees. Their action can have the ripple effect you desire through the organization. It all starts with you, and it all loops back to one of the first lessons here: being a manager is about getting work done through other people.

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from AMA Business Boot Camp edited by Edward T. Reilly. Copyright 2013, American Management Association. Published by AMACOM.

As a senior manager, you have learned how to rise through the ranks to the top of your business. Learn how to advance your career further with this free AMA webcast.

About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.