Let's delve into the mysterious world of your company's head honchos!

Have you ever gazed up at your office block and wondered who sits on the throne? Top management professionals are the royalty reigning over the kingdom that is your company. Understanding the role of the senior management team and what they do is a smart move. In the following guide, we'll take a look at what top management is and why it's important. 

What is meant by top management?

Top management is the collective name given to the big bosses and head honchos at your company. We're talking about the CEOs, COOs, CFOs… and all that jazz. But it doesn't start and end with C-suite positions. This group also includes the organisation's owners and the board of directors. These are the decision-makers - the ones who call the shots.

The three types of top management, explained

Before we go any further, let's get a few things straight. What are the three types of top management? The people in the management team may be at the same level within the business, but they can be neatly slotted into three distinct categories: C-suite, board of directors, and owners. 

If you're new here, we've got you covered. Here's a quick explanation of each type: 

1. C-suite professionals 

These professionals are the upper echelons of the working world, each holding a different and unique role within the company. You can identify this group by the telltale “C” (short for “Chief”) that sits at the start of their title. They're the main players. When an important decision that will impact the entire company rears its ugly head, they're the people who make the call.  Under this heading, you have a specific set of positions, as following: 

  • CEO (Chief Executive Officer). Chances are, you've heard of CEOs. They're the Tim Cooks, Warren Buffets, and Elon Musks of the world. Professionals in this position are responsible for overseeing all aspects of the business. They decide on the strategies that the company uses to push forwards in new directions. 
  • COO (Chief Operating Officer). Next up, the COOs are in charge of everything that has to do with operations - i.e. the everyday processes of running the business. That may include creating strategies, plans, and guidelines that make sure that every cog in the machine of the company is moving just as it should. 
  • CFO (Chief Financial Officer). Money matters, especially in the world of business. That's where the CFO comes into their own. This C-suite professional is responsible for overseeing the financial departments of the company and keeping things on track. They will analyse trends, report back, and decide how to proceed.

  • CTO (Chief Technology Officer). Perhaps one of the lesser-known C-level positions, the CTO is responsible for all areas of technology in the company. That may mean choosing the right software or hardware for the business's needs. 
  • CMO (Chief Marketing Officer). Marketing is the beating heart of every business' revenue streams. Without a proper direction, even the most innovative of startups and businesses will fail. Priding themselves on being “disruptive,” these savvy professionals manage the brand, culture, and marketing of the company. 
  • CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer). This last C-suite role is relatively self-explanatory. The CHRO is responsible for overseeing the HR department and making decisions related to the staffing of the company. Yes, they ultimately do the hiring and firing. However, they also take care of in-house training and disputes. 

2. Company owners and founders 

While the people who own and/or started the business may hold C-suite positions, these individuals are automatically in top management regardless of their title. Since they hold the purse strings and can decide to sell the business, should they wish to, they have the final say on most matters. Of course, the founders may not hold onto the business. 

If the individuals who started the business decide to sell it, much of the time they will relinquish their power. However - and here's where it gets complicated - they may have a contract to say otherwise. Each business is different and has an individual structure here. 

When it comes to big business decisions, the top management also has to consider the views of stakeholders. These are people who have shares in the company and, therefore, may have a right. As a golden rule, most leaders will go above and beyond to make sure that they keep the stakeholders happy. They are, after all, helping to fund the business. 

3. Board of directors

If you thought that about covered all of top management, you were wrong. There's another group of individuals that have a say in what happens to the business. Say hello to the board of directors. This is a panel of experts - often with years and years worth of industry experience to their name - who represent the views of shareholders. When there's a tricky matter at hand, the C-suite team may turn to the board of directors for guidance. 

What does top management actually do?

As we've discussed above, top management encapsulates a whole variety of positions, each with a firm set of duties. However, if you're still wondering what top management does, let's take a broad brushstroke to the page. Here are some of the core activities:

  • Make high-level decisions for the business as a whole 

  • Create long-term strategies and plans that define the direction of the brand 

  • Share information and guidance with all levels of the business and departments

  • Help to create a workplace culture that suits the vision of the company 

  • Ensure that the business has all of the resources that it needs to function 

  • Promote excellent quality throughout the entire enterprise 

  • Decide upon (and share) procedures with other levels of management 

  • Analyse the available information and look at ways to maximise profits 

  • Lead by example and show the rest of the company employees how to act

Of course, the job description for each top management professional will depend on the position and, indeed, the business for which they work. The simplest way to describe this group of professionals is to say that they're at the top of their game and the working world. You might say that reaching this, the highest height of business, is the end-goal. 

The characteristics of top management

Think you have what it takes to climb up the ranks of your business and stand on top of the mountain? Okay. First you will need to have a certain eclectic range of talents. So, what are the characteristics of top management? Here, we take a look at the key traits: 

They see things from a new perspective

What do Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have in common - besides having a net worth of billions of dollars? You guessed it: these individuals think outside of the box. Having the ability to see things from a unique perspective is the core of many top management professionals. Whether that means launching a new product, diving into the world of Web3, or firing a rocket into space, they're willing to push the boundaries at every turn.

They are natural-born leaders

The ability to lead comes naturally to some professionals and, unsurprisingly, these are the people who make it to the top management level. That doesn't have to mean whipping an audience into a frenzy with a Tony Robbins-esque speech. It can simply mean showing the rest of the company employees how to conduct themselves in a quiet and calm manner. People who have the confidence and strength to lead a group will always go far.

They are flexible and open to change

The realms of business are forever changing. As new technology catapults us forward, it can be tricky for every company to keep up. That's where this next top management characteristic slides into the picture. These individuals need not have rigid ideas - those will only get in the way of progress. Instead, they need to be adaptable and ready to move.

They are strong enough to keep pushing 

Businesses fail a lot. NerdWallet reports that 20% of startups fold within the first year of flinging the doors open. For that reason, the professionals sitting in their high castle in top management need to be strong enough to keep moving. The company will face problems and there will be challenges. They need strength and resilience to keep pushing forward.

How to break into top management: tips

Think you have what it takes to reach top management? Be aware that this won't happen overnight, if at all. While Gallup reports that one in ten people have the talent to manage, making it to the top tier is rare. However, no matter what position you hold right now, you can work on moving up to the next level. Here are some of the ways you can show your boss that you have what it takes to nab that next promotion: 

  • When promotions come up, show genuine interest in the role 

  • Be sure to schedule well and never miss a deadline 

  • Take constructive criticism well and apply it to your work 

  • Lead by example - show other team members how it's done 

  • Learn more about the business; its vision, values, and mission 

  • Take complete ownership of the work you do and be proud 

  • Upskill and start bringing more value to the position you hold 

  • Avoid workplace drama - steer clear of gossip and problems

  • Speak up and allow your manager to truly hear your ideas 

By enhancing the way that you approach work, you can put yourself in a prime position for promotion. Keep doing that and, eventually, you might land a top spot within the business. 

The takeaway 

Top management is the highest level in a business. In this guide, we've given you the insight you need into this part of a company and why it matters as a whole. As you can see, there are plenty of roles and positions within this upper tier of the professional world. 

Are you hoping to break into top management? If you're keen to elevate your career to the next level, check out our free CV review service. With feedback from our team of experts, you'll be ready to apply for that promotion. 

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