Setting your sights on the C-suite: how to plot your path to the top

  • Nicola Linkleter
  • 27/11/2014
  • 12:43
  • Adecco Group
How do you make the leap from middle manager to senior leader? Following a recent article in The Guardian, Managing Director Nicola Linkleter shares the secrets of turning ambition into action, outlining what it takes to get a foot in the boardroom door.

So what’s holding you back? Lack of mentoring, leadership training and development programmes are certainly contributing factors, but taking steps to conquer your doubts could help you smash through that self-imposed ceiling.

In the dash for a directorship, initiative, self-promotion and gumption go a remarkably long way.

Make the most of what’s on offer

Take full advantage of your company’s training, development and mentoring programmes to prime yourself for senior-level promotion.

Even if development budgets are restricted – or reserved for a select few – make a compelling case for investment in your long-term goals. Sell the commercial benefits of your career aspirations, demonstrating how your personal advancement will drive the business forward too.

By seeking out opportunities and presenting viable solutions, you‘ll prove you’re a serious contender for future leadership.

Finesse your leadership skills

There’s more than one way to lead successfully, so practise performing under pressure. Seek out the challenging situations, decisions and personalities you’ll experience as a member of the top brass. Aim to develop an adaptable form of leadership that fosters a well-functioning team and builds strong bonds between management and staff.

Whether you work in a large, small or medium-sized business, demonstrating emotional intelligence and a passion for leadership – in all its forms - will put you on the radar for development opportunities.

Stretch your skills

Companies often look for leaders with wide fields of expertise, so take steps to develop your ‘organisational wisdom’. Stretch projects, shadowing, secondments and cross-departmental projects provide valuable opportunities to broaden your business knowledge, while winning the respect of decision makers outside your reporting line.

Get under the skin of the business you hope to be leading. Understand the big picture behind strategic decisions, learn the organisation’s overall direction and track its performance against company goals and competitors.

Keep an eye on cost

While it’s true smaller companies generally hold smaller development budgets, don’t assume training and advancement are out of the question. But do acknowledge resource constraints when making your pitch.

Suggest mentoring - an inventive, low-cost solution that delivers far-reaching business benefits. By creating a professional ‘buddy system’, your company can invest in the growth of its people – at minimal expense - while reaping the rewards of heightened employee engagement, improved continuity and increased retention rates.

Never give up

This may sound obvious, but don’t let your determination drop. Set your sights on success, then establish what it takes to achieve it.

If the right development opportunities aren’t available within your organisation, take an alternative route through external courses, higher education or volunteer work. Build valuable contacts through networking, follow inspiring leaders on social media, and don’t be afraid to ask for guidance from people you admire.

Determination is an important leadership quality, so don’t give up if things aren’t going your way. Map out your journey to the boardroom and use persistence and perseverance to put paid to your professional anxiety.

To learn how other aspiring leaders made their way to the top, download our whitepaper, The path to senior leadership.

This article first appeared on Guardian Jobs in July 2014.