Most managers think they know who counts as an executive, but you might be surprised to find out how it really works. Do you know what V-level leaders are and where they fit into the executive world? Read on to learn about the full executive chain of command, what defines V-level executives, and how managers can reach the next level.
- What is considered an executive position?
- The four levels of management
- Does a VP count as C-level?
- How to go from a V-level executive to a C-level executive
- The 4 fundamental skills for C-level executives
What is considered an executive position?
The term “executive” may bring certain images to mind or make you think of certain titles. In reality, an executive is simply any team member with administrative or supervisory power (or both). As long as someone oversees a team member and has decision-making power, they’re an executive.
The four levels of management
The executive hierarchy includes four tiers of management. Here’s what they are and what roles they play in an organization.
C-suite team members sit at the top level of management. The “C” in this term stands for “chief,” referring to the highest-ranking individual within either a team or organization. As senior leaders, they’re the ones with final decision-making power. These roles are what usually come to mind when you hear the word “executive.”
Common C-level positions include the chief executive officer (CEO), who oversees the company from top to bottom. Positions like the chief financial officer (CFO) and chief operating officer (COO) are also responsible for big-picture organizational decisions. On the other hand, roles like chief marketing officer (CMO) or chief technology officer (CTO) lead specific teams.
Next down the ladder are those in vice president and senior vice president roles. These team members play a big part in overseeing internal operations. They may also help with marketing strategies and keeping an organization’s financial goals on track. They often report to the CEO and come to the table when it’s time to make important decisions. Like C-level executives, V-level managers typically have strong leadership skills.
Directors make up D-level management. Like C- and V-level managers, they’re heavily involved in larger organizational goals, but they also have a hand in day-to-day operations.
You’ll often find D-level executives on teams such as human resources or compliance. They typically come up with strategies to meet larger goals and empower team members to do their best work.
Mid-level managers make up the B-level executive tier. They report to directors and carry out D-level strategies. B-level executives play a huge part in making sure all daily tasks run smoothly.
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Does a VP count as C-level?
While all C-levels are executives, not all executives are C-levels. This is why vice president-level positions are their own group: V-level executives. These executives are the second highest-ranking team members.
How to go from a V-level executive to a C-level executive
If you’re already on an executive track, here are a few tips on how to get to the top.
Strengthen your skills
Before you can get to the highest rung of the executive ladder, make sure you truly have the skills to get there. Most C-suite executives have an MBA or another graduate degree. If you haven’t gotten an advanced degree yet, it might be time to go back to school.
Of course, there are other ways to step up your skills outside a university. Communication, interpersonal skills, and adaptability rank high on the list of skills every executive should have. Try to figure out how you can build a strong foundation of soft skills in your current role.
Broaden your horizons
As the top decision-makers, C-level executives need a vast body of knowledge. Are you an expert in one area of your industry but a novice in others? Take the initiative to ask for projects in areas where you need to grow. Gaining extensive experience is a great way to show you’re ready for a bigger leadership role.
Keep a record of your wins
You should keep track of your smallest and biggest wins if you want to make the case for a C-level promotion. You can easily build this into your everyday to-do list.
Sarah Park, President at MeetEdgar, describes why reviewing where you’ve been is vital to getting where you want to go. “Making time for reflection at the end of every day helps build the next day’s priority list,” Park says. “I like to write a fresh to-do list each day, building off yesterday’s thoughts on “what is the most important thing I can do to move toward my goals right now?”
Make your mark
If you want to reach C-level, you should truly stand out among the competition. Developing a unique professional voice is the best way to do that. Are there any opportunities to publish your unique, insightful views on your industry? Becoming a thought leader is a great way to get noticed. If you’re not sure where to start, consider any gaps in your field.
Author Nir Eyal has some helpful advice. “If you want to beat your competition, if you want to be the best person in your workplace … Think. Make time to think,” Eyal says. “Do you know why? Because nobody’s doing it.”
The 4 fundamental skills for C-level executives
There are a few key skills that all C-level executives need to master for success. Here are a few skills every C-level executive needs.
Great leaders are made, not born. By the time a team member reaches C-level, they should have plenty of practice leading a team.
To be a great leader, you’ll frequently need to strike a balance between patience and decisiveness. Give your team members space to grow while providing clear, firm guidance. If you need help learning how to flex your leadership muscles, try finding a career mentor whose leadership style you admire.
If you’re going to have the final say in all decisions, foresight is vital. Critical thinking – careful analysis and reasoning before presenting a solution – is key here. Active listening is a big part of critical thinking, so make sure your team knows you’ll hear them with an open mind.
C-level executives use critical thinking to solve the toughest problems, so be thorough the next time you’re resolving an issue. Jot down the steps you took, and show your work in any future C-level job interviews.
Decision-making power is a primary C-level responsibility, so you’ll need to be able to act quickly. Good executive decisions balance team members’ perspectives with your organization’s overall objectives. If you need some guidance, don’t be afraid to turn to decision-making models for help.
As a leader, you’ll often need to come up with solutions to problems. Sometimes, those problems may be between team members. Being an effective leader means staying calm, cool, and collected in the face of conflict.
Conflict management skills include, for example, negotiating when team members don’t see eye to eye or taking direct action yourself. If you can provide space for your team to work out short-term differences, your whole department will fare better in the long run.
Rise to the top
The executive class is more than just senior leadership. Wherever you currently sit, you can move up the executive ranks with the right skill set. Make sure you’re on track to go from V-level to C-level with Fellow’s feedback tools that take out all the guesswork. Draw your roadmap upward today to jumpstart your journey from V-level to C-level.