How to go to the top
Leading from the middle is the hardest stage of any manager's career. Top management is the final goal of your career because those positions are more rewarding, at the top you have more control over your destiny, and more resources at your disposal. So, what can stop you from going up the corporate ladder? Well, many things, so it's good to know them, to recognize them and act accordingly.
There are several wide-spread beliefs about types of people that can go all the way up but they are wrong. First, there is a diligent bee, a worker who thinks that working hard and honestly will get him to the top. However, it will not. Hard work will bring you just that - hard work. You must not just sit and work, you must show your work to someone, you must propose something new and you must clearly let your superior know that exactly you did that "something" for the organization.
To be an expert in your field is very rewarding. You are full of knowledge and you are being promoted based on your knowledge and skills. However, remember that your narrow field of expertise is not the end of the world. You must learn how to manage people, how to overcome company politics and in fact you should learn what top managers learn in business schools.
Then there's a "politician", a person who is always near the top boss when something is good and he's never there when there's a problem. A politician will plot around your (and everybody else's) back, and he will talk with fine words just about himself. As the time passes by he will be recognized as someone who slowly destroys the company and he will be removed from it because top management is not stupid: he will be recognized as the one who in fact didn't do anything.
We all have an autocrat in our team who thinks that he's already the CEO. "Play by my rules or you are not a team player" and "Do as I say or I'm going to the boss" are his mottos. He can go far, that's true, but he make a lot of enemy and will end the same: at the very moment when his back is not protected he'll get a knife in it.
One of the largest group of middle managers that will never go further are those who are happy to be a chief of some kind and have their team to rule all their professional life. They are satisfied with their achievement and they don't have a wish to go up where the real challenges are. Even if they are offered a better position they will try to stay in place.
So, be careful not to stuck in one of those groups and your way to the top will be just matter of time. ■