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The role senior managers play in linking resources and capabilities to strategy and competitive advantage.

As we have discussed in prior weeks, senior management is vital to the strategic process. The senior managers should be the top line that decides how to use resources and capabilities and configure the organizations value-chain activities, while also determining how the frontline and middle managers can add value (Carpenter & Sanders, 2008). Fahy, Hurley, Hooley, and DeLuca (2009) state how there is an increasing need to think in competitive terms and many senior management teams are not equipped with the necessary skills.

That statement is something I can relate to in one of our organizations. I’ve always felt that the best senior leaders I have worked with were the ones who worked their way through the ranks. They had been on the frontline, worked as a middle manager, and grew their skillset and knowledge to succeed in a senior position. In one of our organizations, we recently named a new CEO who had never been in an executive position before. However, he had been in the industry for some time at a Big 4 firm. This may be fine if our organization was a well-oiled machine. However, he was hired at a time where we were planning a significant restructure and culture was at an all-time low. Now that he has been in the role for about six months and the restructure has gone into place, it is becoming apparent that while his vast knowledge of the industry will greatly help with growth, he does not have the necessary skills to lead an organization through a restructure.

In a survey of senior consultants, strategic foresight, the ability to think strategically and often on a global basis, was frequently cited as a necessary senior leadership skill (Groysberg, 2014). Interestingly, but not surprisingly, was the demise of star culture, as working well with others is growing in importance. Senior managers have control over the resources and capabilities, and while the middle and frontline managers are doing much of the heavy lifting, it is still the responsibility of the senior team to be leaders.

Reasons why middle managers are better positioned than senior managers to bring about strategic success.

I would be considered a middle manager in my organization, so perhaps this is biased, but I do believe that we have the greatest impact on company performance. Wharton management professor, Ethon Mollick (2011), points out that while top management plays a significant role in setting the overall direction of the company, it is the middle managers that decide which individual projects are selected and how they are run. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Trevor (2018) makes a great point by asking “Who should be responsible for ensuring your company is as strategically aligned as it can be?” Trevor’s (2018) response was that it is not the CEO because the job of aligning the modern corporation is too complex to be added to the CEO’s slate.

I recently had a discussion about this with my boss. I provide him with status updates on different projects, but I rarely come to him with a problem. We always try to fix the problem before it has to be put on the owner’s plate. However, I recently ran into a serious issue that I had no solution for. When I came to him about it, he stated, “I don’t like that you are coming to me with a problem and not a solution.” So, I explained that I didn’t have a solution for this, and it was time for an executive to step in. I think proceeded to give him a handful of examples of issues that have surfaced that never reached his desk because a solution was discovered and implemented. He was very pleased to hear it and also expressed that he wouldn’t have been the best person to even solve those issues because of all the complexities that only middle management and downwards is involved in on a daily basis.

While we learned from our reading and research that middle managers are in fact better positioned to bring about success, how does the cohort feel about this? Does this structure ultimately make sense or would organizations be more successful with senior leaders that were more knowledgeable and involved?


Carpenter, M.A. & Sanders, Wm., G. (2008). Strategic management: A dynamic perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Fahy, J., Hurley, S., Hooley, G., & DeLuca, L. (2009). Resources, Capabilities and Competition in Higher Education. Retrieved from…

Groysberg, B. (2014, March 18). The Seven Skills You Need to Thrive in the C-Suite. Retrieved from

Mollick, E. (2011). Why Middle Managers May Be the Most Important People in Your Company. Retrieved from…

Trevor, J. (2018, January 12). Is Anyone in Your Company Paying Attention to Strategic Alignment? Retrieved from…

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