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Organizational performance is increasingly tied to the performance of function leaders. Yet those leading functions receive less development support than other levels. Leadership development efforts focused on function leaders can have a major payoff for organizations.
To be successful, function leaders must be adept at numerous roles. MDA will highlight several of the most challenging roles for those transitioning from leading teams to leading functions and a number of the behavioral requirements within those roles that represent the biggest development opportunities.
The typical CEO’s team has expanded dramatically in the past generation due to an increased reliance on function leaders. According to research conducted by J.M. Wulf, et al. (Management Science, 2014), CEOs averaged five direct reports in 1986. Today, the average is 10 direct reports, “with nearly three-quarters of the increase attributed to functional managers…” Coinciding with the rise of these “functional chiefs,” such as chief financial officer, chief technology officer and chief marketing officer, has been a decline in general managers, whose ranks have dropped by half over the same period. The authors interpret this trend “as an increasing centralization of activities in the hands of corporate-level functional managers, who coordinate activities across multiple business units to realize synergies.”
Those responsible for leading and managing a function such as operations, marketing, manufacturing, sales, finance and human resources. They may also be responsible for leading and managing an organizational unit such as geographic regions, divisions, product groups, customer segments or business areas. They carry the title of director or vice president and they may be:
New to leading a function
In consideration for leading a function
Established functional leaders who want to become stronger leaders