Top-Level Management: Definition, Functions & Responsibilities

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Jennifer Wiley-Cordone

What kind of managerial skills are necessary for meeting the challenges of running an organization or large department? Learn more about how top-level managers need conceptual skills, human relations skills, and technical skills to be successful.

We also recommend watching The Role and Responsibilities of Financial Managers and Human Resource Management: Definition, Objectives & Responsibilities


'Congratulations,' you hear, as you step into the board room. 'We've confirmed your promotion to the senior management team!' You straighten your blazer and arrange your face to conceal your ecstatic expression. You're remembering all the hard work that brought you here. Then reality hits. You have some studying to do to get this right. Let's see what management theorist Daniel Katz has to say about the skills relevant not only to top-level managers, but to all levels. But, first, let's discuss what each level of management does and how information flow through the organization allows them to do their jobs.

Levels of Management

Have you ever heard the expression, 'Too many generals, not enough privates'? That's because the traditional organizational model has a pyramid structure of management - a few top-level managers, more middle-level managers, and the most supervisors (also called low-level managers). Workers aren't on the management pyramid, but you can think of them as the foundation of the structure. Generally, when there are too many top-level managers (generals) and not enough workers (privates), it's difficult to carry out big-picture plans. It's an expression that demonstrates that each level of management serves a unique purpose.

  • Top-level management is focused on market positioning through long-range strategic planning.
  • Middle-level managers deal with decision-making within their area of responsibility and implementing projects that will meet the strategic objectives of the organization.
  • Low-level managers directly manage the workers and take responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the business. They prioritize the tasks necessary to implement the projects determined by middle managers, which are in turn part of a long-range strategic plan.

Information Flow Through Management Levels

All members of the organization need the right information in order to do their work. Let's look for a moment at the movement of information through the three levels of management.

Managerial Levels, Skills, and Information Flow
Levels of Management Skills

The blue arrows in this image show information flow through the organization. Top-level managers draw in facts, details, and data from the managers below and from outside the organization then push that information down through the organization. They also report out of the organization, such as to shareholders or boards. Middle-level managers report information up to the top, share information with colleagues in other departments, and push information down to lower-level management. Supervisors get daily reports on the current conditions from the employees and report upward while communicating relevant information to workers.

Why does information flow matter to you as a top-level manager? Imagine you are setting strategy for the organization, but the workers aren't accurately or regularly communicating daily details to their supervisors. So, you have only a partial picture of customer needs based on those people who fill out online surveys days after they've been shopping. How can you plan an effective strategy? You might call together the senior management and set improved communication as your first strategic objective. The middle-level managers would figure out different ways to communicate better in their departments. Maybe accounting decides to create a company-wide wiki-spreadsheet or the head of manufacturing decides to redesign the daily reports, making them easier to use. Supervisors might start taking more detailed notes. When your strategic objective has been met, you'll have enough detail to set organization-wide goals.

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