What Does it Take to go From Manager to Director?

What Does it Take to go From Manager to Director? was originally published on Ivy Exec.

For many professionals who are pursuing senior leadership positions as part of their career path, the jump from manager to director can be a difficult promotion to secure.

There are many reasons that contribute to this challenge, but it’s important for managers to be aware of what they can do to overcome professional barriers and advance their careers.

Managers often play critical roles within an organization, which means it can be difficult to replace a good manager. Paradoxically, this can make senior executives hesitant to promote a great manager to the director level because it may be difficult to fulfill the success that they brought to the role. 

Additionally, there is often more competition at the manager level, particularly in larger organizations. This means that decisions against promotions to a director position are weighed against many internal candidates, as well as external recruiting or hiring.

However, all hope is not lost!

If securing a director position is a professional goal, then the first step is to ensure that you have the right mindset against the objective. In fact, according to ‘Put Your Mindset to Work’ by James Reed, 97% of employers would put mindset ahead of skill set when recruiting.

What Qualities Do Executives Seek For Senior Leadership?

According to a recent study shared in Harvard Business Review, the following leadership skills are considered the most important traits for senior leadership positions:

  • Inspire and motivate others: 38%
  • Display high integrity and honesty: 37%
  • Solve problems and analyze issues: 37%
  • Drive results: 36%
  • Communicate powerfully and prolifically: 35%
  • Collaborate and promote teamwork: 33%
  • Build relationships: 30%
  • Display technical or professional expertise: 27%
  • Display a strategic perspective: 24%
  • Develop others: 21%

While these are valued characteristics for potential director candidates, it’s crucial for managers to learn how to express these traits through actions within the workplace. This article will outline a few tips for managers who are striving to take the next step in their career path and help them get recognized for their professional expertise.

Gain Visibility From Executives who Oversee Director Positions

While successful managers may be recognized for their hard work and expertise by their junior co-workers, peers, or even the director that oversees their position, it’s critical for aspiring managers to break away from their immediate circle within the workplace to gain attention from higher-level senior positions. 

Ultimately, when a director position is to be filled, it will be VPs or other senior executives who influence that decision, so managers must seek out opportunities to be recognized by those leaders. This might include speaking up in company-wide meetings, pushing new initiatives that need to be approved by higher-level executives, or more casual approaches at company social events.

Volunteer for New Projects

Another challenging yet highly effective way to position yourself as an ideal candidate for a director position is to consistently volunteer to champion new projects. Managers can demonstrate their leadership skills by taking on new work, and it is very likely that directors and other senior leadership will acknowledge and appreciate the additional support.

Seek Advice & Mentorship From Senior Leaders

A strong way to get on the radar of senior leaders is to actively seek out advice and mentorship from them whenever possible. It can be difficult to gain access to them due to their busy schedules, but it’s an effective way to engage with them and self-identify as a candidate for future positions.

Most importantly, managers should seek to leverage these interactions to express their strategic thinking and communication skills, as well as demonstrate how they have implemented advice from senior executives successfully.

Pursue Education and Professional Development Opportunities

Managers should always do their best to pursue professional development outside of their roles and normal workday. It is possible for people to become stagnant in their career growth when they have been in a position for an extended period of time. While more years of experience in a position is typically seen as commendable, too many years without growth may suggest that a person has reached the ceiling of their professional development.

Seeking out additional education or skill development opportunities, whether through professional development programs in their workplace or independently outside of their jobs, helps provide managers with an advantage over other candidates. Even more critically, it’s important to make this well-known within the workplace and demonstrate that this education is being implemented in an actionable way within their role.

Ready to take the next step in your career path? Learn how to master an executive leadership interview here!


By Ivy Exec
Ivy Exec is your dedicated career development resource.