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Nature of the Work
* This group is among the highest paid workers in the Nation, but long hours and substantial travel often are required.
* Competition for top managerial jobs will be keen because of the large number of qualified applicants seeking jobs.
Chief executive officer, president, executive vice president, owner, partner, brokerage office manager, school superintendent, and police chiefeach is a general manager or top executivethe individual who formulates the policies and directs the operations of businesses and corporations, nonprofit institutions, and government agencies. (The chief executives who formulate policy in government are discussed in detail in the Handbook statement on government chief executives and legislators.)
The fundamental objective of private for-profit companies is to make a profit for their owners, or in corporations, to increase shareholder value. Nonprofit organizations and government agencies implement programs that further their policies within budgetary constraints. General managers and top executives set strategies and try to ensure that their organizations' objectives are met.
A corporation's general goals and policies are established by the chief executive officer in collaboration with other top executives, who are overseen by a board of directors. In a large corporation, the chief executive officer meets frequently with subordinate executives to ensure that operations are being carried out in accordance with these policies. Although the chief executive officer of a corporation retains overall accountability, a chief operating officer may be delegated the authority to oversee the executives who direct the activities of various departments and are responsible for implementing the organization's policies on a day-to-day basis. In publicly-held corporations, it is the board of directors that is ultimately accountable for the success or failure of the enterprise; the chief executive officer reports to the board. In nonprofit corporations, the board of trustees or board of directors fulfills the same role.
The scope of other high level executive's responsibilities depends upon the size of the organization. In large organizations, their duties are highly specialized. Managers of cost and profit centers are responsible for the overall performance of one aspect of the organization, such as manufacturing, marketing, sales, purchasing, finance, personnel, training, administrative services, electronic data processing, property management, transportation, or the legal services department. (Some of these and other managerial occupations are discussed elsewhere in this section of the Handbook.) In smaller firms, the chief executive or general manager might be responsible for all or a number of these functions.
Middle managers, in turn, direct their individual departments' activities within the framework of the organization's overall plan with the help of first-line managers and their staffs. First-line managers oversee and motivate the workers to achieve the departments' goals as rapidly and economically as possible. In smaller organizations, such as independent retail stores or small manufacturers, a partner, owner, or general manager may be responsible for all purchasing, hiring, training, quality control, and other day-to-day supervisory duties. (See the Handbook statement on retail managers.)
Top executives are generally provided with spacious offices and secretarial and support staff. General managers in large firms or non-profit organizations are usually provided with comfortable offices close to the top executives to whom they report. Long hours, including evenings and weekends, are the rule for most top executives and general managers, though their schedules may be flexible.
Substantial travel often is required of managers and executives, who may travel between national, regional, and local offices, or overseas, to monitor operations and meet with customers, staff, and other executives. Many managers and executives attend meetings and conferences sponsored by associations. The conferences provide an opportunity to meet with prospective donors, customers, or government officials and contractors, and allow managers and executives to keep abreast of technological and managerial innovations.
In large organizations, frequent job transfers between local offices or subsidiaries are common. General managers and top executives are under intense pressure to earn ever higher profits, provide better service, or attain fundraising and charitable goals. Executives in charge of poorly performing organizations or departments generally find their jobs in jeopardy.
The educational background of managers and top executives varies as widely as the nature of their responsibilities. Many general managers and top executives have a bachelor's degree or higher in liberal arts or business administration. Their major often is related to the departments they directfor example, accounting for a manager of finance or computer science for a manager of information systems. Graduate and professional degrees are common. Many managers in administrative, marketing, financial, and manufacturing activities have a master's degree in business administration. Managers in highly technical manufacturing and research activities often have a master's degree in engineering or a doctoral degree in a scientific discipline. A law degree is mandatory for managers of legal departments; hospital administrators generally have a master's degree in health services administration or business administration. (For additional information, see the Handbook statement on health services managers.) College presidents and school superintendents generally have an advanced degree, the former, a doctorate in the field they originally taught, and the latter, often a masters degree in education administration. (See the Handbook statement on education administrators.) On the other hand, in industries such as retail trade or transportation, it is possible for individuals without a college degree to work their way up within the company and become managers.
In the public sector, many managers have liberal arts degrees in public administration or one of the social sciences. Park superintendents, for example, often have liberal arts degrees, while police chiefs are generally graduates of law enforcement academies and hold degrees in criminal justice or a related field.
Since many general manager and top executive positions are filled by promoting experienced, lower level managers when an opening occurs, many are promoted from within the organization. Some companies prefer that their top executives have specialized backgrounds and hire individuals who are managers in other organizations. Qualities critical for success include leadership, self-confidence, motivation, decisiveness, flexibility, the ability to communicate effectively, sound business judgment, and stamina.
Advancement may be accelerated by participation in company training programs to gain a broader knowledge of company policy and operations. Through attendance at national or local training programs sponsored by various industry and trade associations and by continuing their education, normally at company expense, managers can become familiar with the latest developments in management techniques and improve their chances of promotion. Every year, thousands of senior managers, who often have experience in a particular field, such as accounting or engineering, attend executive development programs to facilitate their promotion to general managers. Participation in conferences and seminars can expand knowledge of national and international issues influencing the organization and can help develop a network of useful contacts.
General managers and top executives must have highly developed personal skills. An analytical mind able to quickly assess large amounts of information and data is very important, as is the ability to consider and evaluate the interrelationships of numerous factors; they must also be able to communicate clearly and persuasively, and need highly developed interpersonal skills.
General managers may advance to top executive positions, such as executive vice president, in their own firm or they may take a corresponding position in another firm. They may even advance to peak corporate positions such as chief operating officer or chief executive officer. Chief executive officers often become members of the board of directors of one or more firms, typically as a director of their own firm and often as chair of its board of directors. Some general managers and top executives go on to establish their own firms or become independent consultants.
Employment of general managers and top executives is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Because this is a large occupation, many openings will occur each year as executives transfer to other positions, start their own businesses, or retire. Nonetheless, competition for top managerial jobs will be keen. Many executives who leave their jobs transfer to other executive or managerial positions, limiting openings for new entrants.
Projected employment growth of general managers and top executives varies widely among industries. For example, employment growth is expected to be faster than average in all services industries combined, but only about as fast as average in all finance, insurance, and real estate industry subgroups. Employment of general managers and top executives is projected to decline in manufacturing industries overall.
Experienced managers whose accomplishments reflect strong leadership qualities and the ability to improve the efficiency or competitive position of an organization will have the best opportunities. In an increasingly global economy, certain types of experience, such as international economics, marketing, information systems, and knowledge of several languages, may also help.
General managers and top executives are among the highest paid workers in the Nation. However, salary levels vary substantially depending upon the level of managerial responsibility, length of service, and type, size, and location of the firm.
At the highest level, chief executive officers (CEOs) of medium and large corporations are extremely well paid. Salaries often are related to the size of the corporationa top manager in a very large corporation can earn significantly more than a counterpart in a small firm. Total compensation often includes stock options, dividends, and other performance bonuses, in addition to salaries.
Salaries also vary substantially by type and level of responsibilities and by industry. According to a salary survey by Robert Half International, senior vice presidents/heads of lending in banks with $1 billion or more in assets earned about $200,000 to $215,000 in 1997. Executive Compensation Reports, a division of Harcourt Brace & Company, reports that the median salary for CEOs of public companies from the fiscal year 1995 Fortune 500 list was approximately $714,000, with three-quarters making less than about $900,000. In the nonprofit sector, three quarters of the CEOs make under $135,000 in 1996, according to a survey by Abbott, Langer, & Associates.
Company-paid insurance premiums and physical examinations, the use of executive dining rooms and company cars, and expense allowances are among benefits commonly enjoyed by general managers and top executives in private industry. CEOs often enjoy company-paid club memberships, a limousine with driver, and other amenities. CEOs of very large corporations may have the use of private aircraft.
General managers and top executives plan, organize, direct, control, and coordinate the operations of an organization and its major departments or programs. The members of the board of directors and supervisory managers are also involved in these activities. Related occupations in government with similar functions are President, governor, mayor, commissioner, and legislator.
For a wide variety of information on general managers and top executives, including educational programs and job listings, contact:
American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-7420.
National Management Association, 2210 Arbor Blvd., Dayton, OH 45439.
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