As the lifelong learning business grows, more individuals will be looking to climb the ladder to top management. Success may be found within the employee’s present organization or at another lifelong learning organization.
Preparing for the top management position requires planning and a desire to understand the complete picture. To be successful as the CEO/director of a lifelong learning organization, understanding programming, marketing, finances, and management are key, but you must also understand what it means to run a business. In most cases lifelong learning programs are small businesses that tend to look like family businesses where people know each other and have worked together for a long time.
To best position yourself for a leadership position, you may want to prepare a personal development plan. An effective plan must
1) inculcate the skills needed to run a lifelong learning organization and
2) allow you to develop your own identity (personal USP) by progressively gaining managerial responsibility.
Consider the following areas when developing your personal development plan:
1. Complement the present CEO/ director’s interests.
Successors should try to structure their skills so that they can avoid areas already staked out by the present CEO/ director. One way of doing this is by complementing the boss instead of competing with him or her; that is, learning to be strong where the boss is weak. This tactic is not only good for your relationship with your boss, it is also good for the organization.
2. Learn formal business skills.
As the lifelong learning business becomes more sophisticated, running the program by the seat of your pants no longer works. Expertise on the following areas are critical: market segment analysis; productivity measurements; cost accounting systems; forecasting; personnel training programs; organization communication; budgets; and planning.
3. Emphasize technology.
Computers are an integral component of a lifelong learning program. People who take responsibility for computerizing (from scratch or upgrading) the organization gain access to important information. They gain a chance to teach employees new skills, thereby strengthening organizational relationships. They are also given the opportunity to alter a company’s traditions, thus associating themselves with progress and cultural change.
4. Practice external thinking.
You can make a valuable contribution through exploring the market for clues to future growth and profit. CEO/directors in their position for an extended period will likely have withdrawn from this habit. Aspiring leaders who take these activities upon themselves will begin to learn what people think of the organization’s products and services. They can hunt for new entrepreneurial opportunities that might benefit the organization.
5. Run a profit center.
Instead of remaining in one functional area such as marketing, operations, or finance, run one or more profit centers. The most valuable training for the top manager’s role is the management of an independent profit center. This may be a division or a particular line of products and services — anything that generates profit as a stand-alone unit. Here, at the head of your own “mini-corporation,” you will learn leadership and strategy.
6. Set goals with outside review.
Establishing goals has many benefits. It allows you a chance to define your job responsibilities and to see that they are actually making meaningful contributions to the organization. Sharing these goals with such qualified outsiders as board members, accountants, lawyers, or organizational consultants also has benefits. Such outsiders can comment on the degree of ambition and realism that the goals reflect. Build a support team.
7. Continue professional studies.
Find associations with people who have the same aspirations. Continue your “schooling” by taking classes, attending seminars, etc. that include people who are CEO/directors. Listen and learn.
Ascending to the top leadership position is not something that just happens. You want to be prepared so that you do the best job possible in your present position and when you become the CEO/director.
If you are someone who wants to ascend to that top position, LERN's Executive Leadership Institute is for you. At this week-long education event you will:
- Learn from the foremost authorities in the field of lifelong learning programming.
- Take home a library of readings that will be useful for you and other staff members for years to come.
- Network with colleagues from all over North America.
- Discover the best school you can attend, because you’ll learn tips, ideas, and techniques you can use on Monday morning.