All new roles come with new responsibilities. But managers of functions or divisions face leadership challenges that are tied directly to the scope of work.

“Division or function managers typically come into the role having been very successful leading a specific area,” says CCL’s Stephanie Trovas.

“When these managers are promoted or the business changes significantly, they need to learn how to skillfully run a much broader, bigger function. And the leadership demands are significantly different.”

In her role managing CCL’s Leading for Organizational Impact program, Trovas works with experienced managers who are looking to strengthen the skills they need, including influencing peers, communicating effectively, and addressing strategic needs while putting out the day-to-day fires.

Trovas and her colleagues also explain to program participants why self-awareness, learning agility, and working across boundaries are keys to leading effectively when your scope is broad:

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Influence. Do you inspire and motivate others to take action? At this level, you can’t directly drive the task; you have to get results through others.

To be effective, you must delegate effectively; persuade, promote and explain; and be comfortable with your managerial power. Influencing also involves setting up and engaging an extensive network of peers and contacts.

Communicating effectively. Do you express ideas clearly through what you say and what you write? Do you share important information, give feedback and address concerns? How well do you communicate the vision? Can you articulate complex ideas?

Encouraging communication and open discussion among managers and employees is also part of your role.

Thinking and acting strategically. Do you have the perspective and ability to balance the tension between daily tasks and strategic actions that impact the long-term viability of the organization? What are you doing to step back, think about the vision, and clarify strategy?

What new skills (your own or others’) should you develop or what relationships should you build?

Self-awareness. We usually think of self-awareness as having an accurate picture of your strengths and developmental needs. However, when you have a large span of control you also need an accurate read on how your strengths, weaknesses and behaviors affect others — and, in turn, impact business outcomes.

“Unfortunately, the higher up the management ladder you go, the less feedback you get,” says Trovas.

In addition, we may be overusing strengths that were more critical in previous roles. Finding ways to get frequent, unbiased feedback is an important priority for senior leaders.

Learning agility. Do you reflect on and learn from experience? Do you continue to seek opportunities to learn? Are you open to others’ perspectives, ideas, and insights?

Understanding the limits of your own experience and point of view becomes more important as the scope of your role increases.

Working across boundaries. An additional challenge is to operate across the entire system. You’ll need to understand and manage organizational politics, form alliances and build collaborative relationships.

Spanning the vertical, horizontal, demographic, cultural, and geographic boundaries is part of your role — and your actions can have an impact across the system.

What’s Your Complex Challenge?

When you’re setting leadership goals, be sure to consider the context. Participants in CCL’s Leading for Organizational Impact program reflect on organizational challenges that involve one or more of the following:

  • Working across organizational boundaries: The challenge cannot be solved within any one function alone.
  • Strategic thinking and acting: Balancing the tension between short- and longer-term strategic actions.
  • Innovating and creating engagement: The challenge requires change, not just in operational systems and structures, but more deeply in human systems, culture, beliefs, and values.

What is one organizational challenge you face? What skills do you need to learn to help meet the challenge?

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