“Congratulations you have done an incredible job as a team leader and we are promoting you to lead the entire division. You are now responsible for the (HR/Engineering/Logistics/Marketing…) function of our enterprise.”

Functional leaders lead their area of expertise and are part of a team with the other functional leaders. They are experts in their lane and must work well with the leaders in other lanes. Some themes for leadership at this level, your work is more strategic, finances are involved, and communication is more complex.

Promotion to this level requires several new dimensions of leadership to master. Let’s look at each of the five areas of expertise required for this level of leadership. As detailed in a previous blog post.

Leadership Expertise
Success requires you to be a proficient communicator. The challenges; you are further removed from the line work, closer to the top leadership, and your teammates (other functional leaders) do not speak your functional language.

Hence, you need to develop the expertise to remain in touch with the line worker, communicate well with your peers, and understand the communication requirements of the organizational leaders.

Technical Expertise
The new technical areas requiring mastery are: planning, finances, and reporting. Strategy becomes more prevalent in your tasks. Understanding the planning process and how your functional area fits into the big picture allows you to provide value to the overall organization, and your functional area.

In the for-profit world, the top metrics are financial; return on investment, margin, profit, growth… Understanding the cost of running your functional area and how it contributes to revenue will be a primary measure of your capability.

Reporting is the formal communication of performance metrics. It is the official record of performance.

Tactical Expertise
Tactical expertise is the application of the technical expertise in the context of the business.

Hence, think about the application of three technical areas above in the day-to-day context of your business. Tactical expertise required at this level is mastering the implementation of the planning, financial, and reporting mechanisms. They are the levers of influence at your level and above.
Planning. Your utilization of the systems and participation in the process sets the standard of performance of your functional area. Clearly an area to be deeply involved.

Finances. Think of this as the lifeblood of the organization. The ability to understand the big picture of money flowing through the organization, makes you a valuable member of the team. Compare in your mind the impact of leaders at this level who are experts versus only familiar with the finances of the operation. The more you know the more you can influence operations.

Reporting, serves as the official record of performance for your functional area. Mastery of systems allows you to collect the correct data to tell your story.

Cultural Expertise
The team of functional leaders are all experts on their area with varying levels of familiarity with the other functional areas. Functional leaders also have a mindset of advocacy for their area.

Cultural expertise is the ability to 1) integrate into a culture and 2) when needed create, modify, and maintain a culture. Integration is a required first step. Understand the culture, the norms of behavior and how well you fit.

In determining fit, become a student who learns by listening and asking questions. Be a student of the other functional areas. Understand how you and your functional area fits and contribute to the whole.

Next become a teacher. Endeavor to make other members of the team as knowledgeable of your functional area as needed. This may fall into the category of modifying or maintaining the culture.

Business Expertise
Every business has a mission to deliver an impact and part of the impact is financial. At this level the expertise required to be successful is mastering:

– How your functional area impacts others ability to meet the financial mission
– How the other functional areas impact your area to meet the financial mission

Understanding the finances of your area and their impact on the whole makes you a valuable leader.

This transition can be challenging as the shift in thinking becomes more strategic and the interactions are more complex. Functional leaders will have responsibilities for areas they have little background and experience.

How are you preparing yourself or those you lead for this level of leadership?