20 management shills to reach the top cover image

20 management skills you should develop to reach the top

I always tried to reflect on what are the primary management skills that help any manager to reach top positions. Which are the key capabilities that get any manager to succeed? Looking at the list of skills, seems quite demanding to achieve. But cultivating a diverse set of skills is imperative for those aspiring to reach the pinnacle of success.

This article explores into the multiple facets of capabilities a real good leader must possess, outlining the twenty essential management skills that propel leaders towards excellence. From visionary thinking to ethical considerations, each skill plays a pivotal role in shaping a well-rounded and effective manager. As we explore each skill, try to envision how its mastery can transform your managerial approach, making you not only apt in your day to day operations, but also a leader who inspires and fosters growth.

The 20 management skills you need to reach the top:

1. Develop a Vision

A visionary leader possesses a profound ability to conceptualize the future, articulating a compelling vision that energizes and mobilizes the workforce. This skill involves a blend of foresight, creativity, and effective communication.

A visionary leader does not merely predict the future; they actively shape it. This involves anticipating industry trends, understanding emerging technologies, and envisioning the trajectory of the market. By doing so, they can lead their team with confidence, preparing them for the challenges and opportunities on the horizon.

But developing the vision is not the end of it: the leader must convey their vision in a way that inspires, aligns, and motivates the team. They must paint a vivid picture of the future, making it tangible and desirable for every team member. This fosters a shared sense of purpose and commitment, driving collective efforts towards a common goal.

In essence, visionary leadership is the lighthouse of the managerial journey. It helps to clear the road ahead, and instills a sense of direction and purpose in every team member.

2. Leadership

leader looking ahead develops vision, key management skill

Leadership is the rocket fuel that propels a manager to the top. Effective leadership involves inspiring, guiding, and motivating a team to achieve common objectives. 

A skilled leader cultivates a positive work culture, encourages innovation, and ensures that each team member feels valued and heard. They navigate challenges with resilience, fostering a sense of collective purpose. 

Leadership also entails decision-making, often in high-pressure situations, where a manager must weigh risks and benefits. It’s about setting a vision, aligning the team, and adapting strategies to achieve long-term goals. 

The best leaders lead by example, embodying the qualities they expect from their team. In the dynamic landscape of modern management, leadership skills are paramount for steering both individuals and organizations towards success.

3. Analitical Prowess

Business battlegrounds are complex environments, and leaders must navigate them with precision. Managers with strong analytical skills can decipher vast datasets, taking from them meaningful insights to develop strategic decisions.

Analytical acumen involves the ability to discern patterns, identify trends, and derive valuable conclusions from data. It’s about transforming raw information into actionable intelligence. A manager with analytical prowess can make sense of market trends, customer behavior, and internal performance metrics, providing a solid foundation for informed decision-making.

Furthermore, this skill extends to problem-solving. A manager adept in analytics can dissect challenges, break them into manageable components, and strategize effective solutions. This not only enhances the decision-making process but also equips the team to address obstacles with efficiency.

In the dynamic landscape of modern business, where data is abundant and complexities abound, analytical prowess is akin to a superpower for managers. It enables them not just to steer the ship but to navigate with precision, ensuring the journey is guided by evidence, insight, and a strategic vision.

4. Strategic Planning

I call strategic planning “The art of being always one step ahead”. The key here is to build a good roadmap to get you to your desired situation from where you’re standing now.

Strategic planning mastery is, indeed, one of the most important management skills you must develop. It elevates leaders from reactive decision-makers to proactive visionaries. Managers equipped with this skillset possess the foresight to align organizational goals with a well-defined roadmap, ensuring every move contributes to the overarching success.

Strategic planning involves understanding the business landscape, your company’s internal capabilities, and future trends. A skilled manager can craft a comprehensive plan that not only addresses current challenges but also positions the organization for sustained growth.

Moreover, strategic planning mastery instills adaptability. Managers can foresee potential obstacles and develop contingency plans, allowing the organization to navigate uncertainties with resilience. It’s about having a dynamic blueprint that can be adjusted without losing sight of the ultimate destination. And that really means, as I mentioned, being one step ahead.

Strategic planning mastery transforms managers into architects of the future, guiding their teams with purpose, clarity, and a proactive spirit. As Peter Drucker aptly stated, “The best way to predict the future is to create it,” and strategic planning empowers managers and leaders to do just that.

5. Be Executive and Avoid Procastination

Making great plans is a great differentiator. But if your plans stay in your computer files and don’t solidify in concrete actions, they don’t exist. So doesn’t your visibility. Great executives are individuals who don’t just plan but also swiftly implement those plans. You must, at all costs, avoid analysis paralysis. 

This skill involves decisiveness and a proactive approach. An executive manager is adept at making decisions promptly, taking calculated risks, and leading the team toward concrete actions. This trait is particularly crucial in dynamic and fast-paced work environments where delays in decision-making can be detrimental. 

Executives set the tone for the team, fostering a culture of agility and responsiveness. This skill requires a balance between thoughtful consideration and a sense of urgency, ensuring that plans don’t linger in the realm of theory but materialize into impactful actions. 

Being executive also involves taking responsibility for outcomes, learning from failures, and continuously refining strategies for better results.

6. Orientation to Continuous Process Improvement

Process improvement spiral, key skill for a great manager

These 3 management skills are almost complementary: you plan, you execute, and then you measure your results and make adjustments to continue improving your results. Repeat endlessly and you have a great manager.

Managers aspiring to the pinnacle of their careers recognize the value of continuous improvement, both for themselves and their teams. This skill involves a proactive approach to identifying areas for enhancement, embracing new methodologies, and staying abreast of industry trends. 

Will all your plans be perfect? Of course not! Not to speak of your executions! There may be countless mistakes. But learning from them, adapting and improving is key to achive superior results. 

This orientation fosters adaptability and resilience, critical traits for navigating challenges and steering teams toward sustained success. Managers who prioritize continuous improvement inspire a culture of innovation, where every setback is viewed as an opportunity for growth and refinement.

Also a key in this aspect is focusing on processes. Processes are what makes your business work, so when you focus on improving the process instead on some personal performance, you multiply the effect of your effort. Try it!

7. Budgeting

Effective budgeting is a fundamental skill for managers striving to ascend the corporate ladder. This involves more than just number crunching; it’s about strategic allocation of resources to achieve organizational goals. You cannot advance in any organization if you don’t master this skill.

Competent managers comprehend the financial dynamics of their department or organization. They have an understanding of all their revenue streams, cost structures, and financial performance metrics. This understanding allows them to make informed decisions aligned with the organization’s financial health.

Budgeting is not merely about limiting expenditures; it’s a strategic tool for resource allocation. Managers skilled in budgeting allocate resources judiciously, prioritizing initiatives that align with the organization’s objectives. They consider long-term financial sustainability while making day-to-day operational decisions.

Effective budgeting includes accounting for uncertainties. Skilled managers factor in potential risks and devise contingency plans. This proactive approach safeguards against financial shocks and ensures that the organization can weather unforeseen challenges.

You have also to be able to communicate financial goals, constraints, and achievements transparently. They bridge the gap between financial jargon and operational realities, fostering a shared understanding among team members. This transparent communication engenders trust and collaboration.

Last but not least, a small paragraph on adaptability. Managers adept in budgeting continuously monitor financial performance, adjusting plans as needed. This flexibility allows them to respond to changing market conditions, emerging opportunities, or unforeseen challenges.

Do you understand the importance of this skill? Whenever I hear some managers say that he or she is not good with numbers, or that he doesn’t care much about them… that’s a bad sign on how far they will go!

8. Negotiation

A good manager is a good negotiator. You must learn to negotiate with everyone: your bosses, your investors, your customers, your employees, your suppliers, and the list goes on and on… Beyond traditional business deals, negotiation extends to daily interactions, where managers must adeptly handle conflicts, mediate disputes, and influence outcomes positively.

Exceptional negotiation skills are a cornerstone of effective management. A manager proficient in negotiation can navigate complex scenarios, striking beneficial deals for their organization. This skill involves understanding the needs and perspectives of all parties, identifying common ground, and crafting solutions that satisfy multiple interests. 

Successful negotiation requires active listening, strategic thinking, and the ability to communicate persuasively. Managers who master this skill create win-win situations, fostering collaboration and building strong, lasting relationships.

9. Effective Communication Skills

Woman communicating to his team, one of the key management skills

Effective communication is the glue that connects most of the aforementioned management skills. This entails conveying information clearly and listening actively, understanding diverse perspectives, and fostering open dialogue within the team. 

Managers with strong communication skills articulate their ideas, expectations, and visions persuasively, ensuring alignment among team members. Moreover, they excel in interpersonal communication, building positive relationships with colleagues, superiors, and subordinates. Many times, they excel in presenting results, projects, products and situations to different stakeholders.

If you want to improve your public communication skills, this article might be useful for you:

The 12 Public Speaking Commandments: Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

This skill extends to written communication, where clarity, conciseness, and precision are paramount. A manager’s ability to express thoughts comprehensively and interpret others’ messages accurately contributes significantly to team cohesion and organizational success.

10. Customer-Orientation

Being customer-oriented is a fundamental skill for any manager aspiring to the top. Customer orientation goes beyond merely providing products or services; it involves understanding and anticipating customer needs. 

Successful managers keenly listen to customer feedback, adapt strategies to enhance customer satisfaction, and build long-lasting relationships. This skill extends to the entire team, instilling a customer-centric mindset. Managers need to align their decisions with what’s beneficial for the customers, ensuring that products meet expectations and services exceed standards. 

In a world driven by customer experiences, the ability to stay attuned to market demands and deliver value is a pivotal skill for managerial success.

Bear in mind that by customer orientation, I mean both external customers and internal customers, ine aspect that many managers forget. You must understand the concept and the needs of internal customers, and give them a great service too. That will be a great presentation card for you within your own organization.

11. Creativity: a distinctive management skill

Can you be a manager without creativity? Yes. But your management style will fill lifeless and empty. A manager’s ability to foster creativity within themselves and their team is a key differentiator in a rapidly changing business landscape.

Creative managers embrace a mindset that views challenges as opportunities for inventive solutions. They encourage out-of-the-box thinking, understanding that diverse perspectives generate novel ideas. This not only sparks innovation but also cultivates a dynamic work culture where individuals feel empowered to contribute their unique insights.

Moreover, creative management is about seeing connections where others might not. It involves breaking away from traditional thought patterns and embracing experimentation. As Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Creative managers infuse joy into problem-solving, making the workplace an environment where ingenuity flourishes.

In essence, creativity in management is not a luxury but a necessity. It’s about navigating uncertainty with a pioneering spirit, envisioning possibilities, and turning challenges into stepping stones for progress. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Creativity is just connecting things,” and in management, it’s the art of weaving those connections into a tapestry of success.

12. Team Building

In business, nobody works alone. People-management skills are indispensable for managers aiming for the summit. Exceptional leaders recognize that a cohesive and motivated team is a powerhouse for achieving organizational goals. 

This skill involves not only assembling a competent team but also fostering collaboration, trust, and a sense of purpose. Successful managers know how to capitalize on individual strengths, mitigate weaknesses, and create an environment where every team member feels valued. 

Team building also includes the ability to resolve conflicts, inspire shared vision, and ensure that everyone is working towards common objectives. Managers who excel in team building create high-performing teams that adapt to challenges and drive collective success.

Pro tip: don’t be afraid to have exceptional people in your team, people that might be better than yourself! You want your team to have success, and for that, you need the best players! Do you think Phil Jackson was afraid of having Michael Jordan on his team, or Lionel Scaloni of having Lio Messi during the 2022 World Cup? Hell no! They were glad to have them! You only need to learn how to manage those great players and make them give the best for your team.

I recommend everybody to go watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV to see how a good manager builds his team. It has many great management lessons in it!

13. Focusing: A Manager’s Strategic Edge

Key management skill, the 80?20 principle

One of the first things you learn in management is that you have to deal with finite resources. It means your time is scarce, your resources, and your budget too. This single fact shows you the importance of focusing on your list of priorities. 

You have to learn to discern which are the critical tasks you and your team have to focus upon, to transform your efforts into results with a bigger impact and meet your objectives with precision.

For managers, maintaining focus involves prioritization — identifying the tasks that contribute most significantly to overarching goals. Tools like the Eisenhower Matrix can aid in distinguishing between urgent and important tasks, ensuring energy is channeled where it matters most.

I find Pareto’s Law (which many people also identify as the 80/20 principle) as one of the most important principles that helped me achieve my goals during my career, as I focused on the 20 percent of the causes that produced the most important results.

Running your team’s and your own tasks through an “Eliminate, Automate, Delegate” process might also help you find out which tasks you must focus on in order to reach your goals.

In essence, focus is the compass that guides managerial efforts toward impactful outcomes. It’s not just about doing more; it’s about doing what matters, and doing it with unparalleled attention. In the words of Steve Jobs, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.” For managers, mastering this art of saying ‘no’ to distractions is a cornerstone of success.

14. Delegation

This is one of the harder skills for most managers and leaders. Why? Because you probably start doing your job really well, and then you rise up the ladder. You have to let other people do your job. Will they do it well enough? That question haunts many managers in their beds…

Delegation is one of the pivotal management skills for effective management, freeing up a leader’s time to focus on strategic aspects. Skillful delegation involves identifying tasks that can be assigned to others based on their strengths and abilities. Managers who master delegation empower their team members, fostering a sense of responsibility and professional growth. 

This skill requires clear communication, trust-building, and the ability to set realistic expectations. Delegating wisely is not about passing off work but about distributing responsibilities to optimize productivity and ensure that every team member contributes meaningfully to the overall success of the organization. 

Managers who adeptly delegate create a more agile and efficient workplace, propelling both individual and collective achievements.

15. Time Management

Time management is one of those good management skills aiming to enhance productivity and maintain a healthy work-life balance, which is one of our main goals in this site. 

Effective time managers prioritize tasks, set realistic deadlines, and eliminate time-wasting activities. They employ tools like calendars, planners, and productivity apps to organize their schedules and meet deadlines consistently. Time management is not merely about working harder but working smarter, identifying and focusing on high-priority tasks. 

Managers skilled in time management can navigate through tight deadlines and unexpected challenges without compromising the quality of their work. This skill is not only about personal efficiency but also about ensuring that the entire team operates cohesively and meets collective goals within stipulated time frames. In a world where time is a valuable resource, mastering time management is a key factor in a manager’s journey toward success.

Implementing mindfulness techniques is another avenue for managers to enhance their focus and time management. Techniques like meditation or the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in short, focused bursts, can sharpen concentration.

16. Common Sense

Often called the least common of all senses, it’s often considered an innate quality. An important quality that effective managers cultivate and apply in their decision-making processes. Common sense involves practical judgment, sound reasoning, and an intuitive grasp of what is sensible in a given situation.

In daily operations, common-sense-driven managers navigate challenges with a balanced and pragmatic approach. They consider the broader implications of their decisions and evaluate potential outcomes with a keen understanding of the context. Common sense becomes a valuable asset in problem-solving, enabling managers to cut through complexity and focus on practical, actionable solutions.

A manager’s ability to exercise common sense not only streamlines decision-making but also fosters a work environment where rational thinking and practical problem-solving are valued. It contributes to a leadership style that is approachable, relatable, and capable of addressing issues with clarity and simplicity. It’s definitely a management skill you want to possess.

17. Perseverance and Resilience

Perseverance and resilience are indispensable qualities for managers aiming to reach the pinnacle of their careers. In the face of challenges, setbacks, or unforeseen obstacles, perseverant and resilient managers maintain focus on their objectives, adapting and bouncing back from adversity.

Perseverance involves the ability to persist in the pursuit of goals despite difficulties. It’s the determination to overcome obstacles and stay committed to long-term objectives. Managers with perseverance don’t shy away from challenges; instead, they view them as opportunities to learn and grow. This quality enables them to navigate through uncertainties and emerge stronger on the other side.

Resilience complements perseverance by emphasizing the capacity to recover quickly from setbacks. Resilient managers possess emotional strength, allowing them to cope with stress, criticism, or failure. They see setbacks not as insurmountable roadblocks but as temporary hurdles that can be overcome with the right mindset and strategy.

In leadership roles, demonstrating perseverance and resilience sets a powerful example for teams. It fosters a culture of tenacity and adaptability, where challenges are seen as part of the journey. These qualities not only contribute to personal growth but also enhance a manager’s ability to lead through uncertainty and change.

18. Integrity

key management skills - Ethics and integrity

One of my first managers always mentioned the phrase “Walk The Talk”. Do what you say. That’s what integrity means to me. It means showing up, being trustable and transparent. Keeping your promises. Being consistent on what people expects from you. This consistency builds a reputation for reliability and fairness.

Integrity is also reflected in how managers communicate with their teams and stakeholders. Transparent communication, even when delivering challenging messages, is a hallmark of an integrity-driven manager. This openness fosters trust and credibility.

Managers with integrity treat team members fairly and impartially. They value diversity and inclusion, ensuring that every team member feels respected and supported. This commitment to fairness creates a positive work environment.

In moments of success and adversity, managers with integrity take responsibility for their decisions. They don’t shift blame onto others but instead focus on learning and improvement. This accountability builds trust and confidence in their leadership.

Integrity is not just a personal virtue but a foundational aspect of effective management. It contributes to a positive organizational culture, where employees feel secure, valued, and motivated to contribute their best efforts.

19. Continuous Training and Development

You want to be an exceptional manager? Commit to continuous training and development. In the ever-evolving business landscape, staying current with industry trends and acquiring new skills is paramount. 

A manager invested in personal growth seeks out opportunities for learning, whether through workshops, courses, or industry conferences. They understand that their knowledge base should expand continually to adapt to changing circumstances and emerging technologies.

Continuous training also extends to fostering a culture of learning within the team. A manager encourages professional development among team members, ensuring that everyone has access to resources for skill enhancement. This dedication to ongoing learning not only boosts individual performance but contributes to the overall success and innovation of the team and the organization. 

A manager committed to continuous training and development is better equipped to navigate the complexities of the business world and lead their team toward sustained success.

20. Ethics

Ethics in management is not a mere guideline but a fundamental driver for sustainable success. Managers who prioritize ethical practices contribute to a positive work environment and long-term organizational prosperity.

Ethical managers integrate values into the core of decision-making processes. This involves aligning actions with ethical standards and considering the impact on stakeholders, fostering a culture of responsibility.

Ethics in management extends to ensuring fairness and equality. Managers are responsible for creating an environment where every team member is treated equitably, irrespective of differences. This commitment promotes diversity and inclusion.

Ethical managers are adept at navigating complex situations ethically. They actively seek resolutions that adhere to moral principles and benefit all stakeholders, balancing the sometimes conflicting demands of profitability and responsibility.

Ethical management involves staying informed about and compliant with industry standards and regulations. This not only mitigates legal risks but also demonstrates a commitment to responsible and lawful business practices.

Also, ethical managers embrace the concept of corporate social responsibility. They understand the importance of contributing positively to society, going beyond profit-making to address environmental, social, and community concerns. And that’s an issue of growing concern since all of us must be conscious of our own responsibility to take care of the planet and the environment. 

Incorporating ethics into management practices is not just a moral obligation but a strategic imperative. Ethical leadership builds trust with stakeholders, enhances the organization’s reputation, and positions it as a responsible contributor to society.

20 Management Skills You Should Develop: Conclusion

So you wanted to get to the top of management excellence? It’s not an easy road, since it demands the acquisition and honing of various management skills. The good news? It’s a race against yourself, so you can improve every day. Whether you are enhancing your negotiation techniques or honing your ethical compass, remember that the path to managerial success is an ongoing expedition. Each skill you cultivate brings you one step closer to not just reaching the top but thriving at the summit.

In this exploration of 20 crucial management skills, we’ve uncovered the foundations that distinguish outstanding managers. As you reflect on these skills, consider them not as isolated traits but as an interconnected web that weaves an impactful and influential leader.