You don’t have to be the boss to be successful. But, if you are thinking about taking on a leadership role, you should understand whether or not your personality, experience, and goals for advancement are a good fit. Start by doing some soul searching to see if management is the right path for you.
Figuring out your next move
Are you unsatisfied with your job? Are you bored in your current role and want to advance and make more money but you don’t know how? Understanding what success means to you and why you are looking for a change is an important first step. Writing down your career goals can help crystallize your path forward. The path forward may or may not mean taking a role in management.
If you want to advance your career but aren’t interested in a leadership role, there are likely other paths you can take to get ahead.
To manage or not to manage?
If you are interested in management, find out if there's a way to move forward in your current company. If there isn’t, and being a leader is important to you, you may need to look for work elsewhere, so be prepared to start that journey.
If you think you’re ready to move ahead, consider the behaviors of a good manager, including:
- Takes responsibility even when someone on your team does something wrong.
- Respects others for who they are, including embracing diversity and inclusion principles.
- Communicates clearly so that no one should be left wondering what you mean and what you expect from your team.
- Is seen as trustworthy by your team, and they feel comfortable sharing both personal and professional information. You know now how to be a sympathetic ear without contributing to problems or drama.
- Deftly delegates knowing you can’t do it all and freeing up your time to focus on bigger-picture projects.
Moving into management
Research what it takes to be a manager. People who climb the management ladder typically move through the ranks and end up managing more and more people over time. Transitioning into the management track is a big step, and it may not be the right one for you if you simply want to do something different or make more money.
That being said, being a manager can be very rewarding, personally and professionally. You can more directly affect company goals and progress, which can increase your sense of self-worth.
Consider the following traits of good managers:
- More responsibility. Being a manager means more “peopling” and less time spent on job duties that you’re come to master. Management usually means more responsibility for reaching company goals and dealing with interpersonal conflicts. And that can mean more pressure too.
- Investing in yourself and others. A management role can advance your career, increase your salary, and offer an impressive title. But being a good manager is less about you and more about your team. Before you take on the role, ask yourself if you’re the type of person who can truly invest in others’ successes and take pleasure in helping people to set, reach, and achieve their goals.
- The voice of leadership. Think about how people have viewed you in your personal life, in volunteerism, and other activities outside of work. Are you seen as a natural leader? Does your voice come to the forefront during decision-making? The best managers are natural leaders.
How to move up without managing
It’s ok if being a manager isn’t right for you. Management positions can bring a lot of pressure, and it’s not for everyone.
You can still advance your career if you are unsatisfied in your current role, want to make more money, and/or have career and leadership goals you’d like to achieve.
Here are some ways to advance without becoming a manager:
- Find leadership opportunities: Offer to lead projects or processes in your current role. Join committees or internal groups and learn how to become a leader in those spaces. Consider joining external, local boards, and organizations to have a direct impact on causes with meaning for you.
- Take a non-managerial promotion: Meet with your manager or department head to discuss what a promotion could look like without moving into management.
- Make a lateral move: Moving to another department or even another company with different job duties can feel exciting and re-energizing, even if you don’t get a bump in pay.
- Start a side hustle: Consult or freelance on the side — as long as it’s okay with your company and not a conflict of interest.
If you’d like to get ahead but don’t necessarily want the responsibilities of management, consider other ways to advance your career or be a leader outside of work. There’s no need to be stagnant, bored, or unhappy in your current role. If you aren’t being challenged the way you want, search for other opportunities or greener pastures.