In talking with my "mentor", and soon to be boss, about my choice of next steps up the ladder (see last post for the decision), we talked about a lot of things that you "need".
To get to the top, he declared you needed the following:
1. The "Vision" thing.
2. People management/logistics
3. "Portfolio" management
4. Technical ability
To explain these further, and in reverse order
4. Technical ability. This referred to a technical understanding of the science in the marketplace in question. For me, my Ph.D. takes care of this. Staying current is required. This was the least interesting for me, as the order was basically "Make sure you know the science you are trying to sell or figure out or move in to". Translated really loosely - make sure you understand your problem/customer. I wanted to say "no duh!" - but that seemed a bit impolite. I guess some people don't get this, but I don't know how they do it.
3. "Portfolio" management. This refers to making trade offs between A and B, where both A and B are important. Made up example - You have $2M to spend on R+D. Group A supports your current projects, and spending that money will over the next 3 years return you $5M, with a 95% probability. However, these are your current products and don't move you in to any new areas. Group B is in a brand new area where you, as a company, should be. The $2M spend will return you $5M over the next 3 years, but there are a lot of chances for things to go wrong. You may get nothing, you may get more than $5M, or it may cost more to get in so the $2M number might go up. You have to decide. This, in his view, was portfolio management.
2. People Management / Logistics. I have managed a smallish group for awhile. There are a fleet of little things that come from that. The next step for me is to manage a much bigger group where I have layers of managers below me. As put, there is no real way to do this other than to do it. HR has little guides to help you. There are management training classes. There are mentors to ask. There are many things.... At the end of the day you just have to do it and try to learn faster than you screw up. I am petrified/excited about this for when I get to it.
1. The "Vision" thing. A strong drive to go somewhere. To lead a group in a growing market, the person in charge needs to have some idea of what the end goal looks like. They have to have a vision of where the group is headed. This, from his point of view, wasn't something that could really be taught. You either had the ability to look ahead and try and drive.... or you didn't.
These were the items that he said you had to have all of in order to get to the upper levels of management at a "large" company. Small companies were different and we didn't get in to that.