Where I work, there is no direct path that leads from project management to the executive ranks. Occasionally, a person who has worked as a project manager becomes an executive, but it's certainly not the norm.
From my own point of view, this isn't a problem -- on the contrary. Had I wanted to be a "line" executive, I would have stayed in line management. I chose project management because I saw it as a means to manage the kind of work that I really enjoy most: the realization of ideas.
For me, career growth means managing projects that are more important, more valuable, more interesting or just more fun. Often, this can mean bigger teams and bigger budgets, but for me, that doesn't necessarily translate into bigger thrills. Career growth does not mean at all that I need to become an executive to feel fulfilled.
I see project management and executive management as complementary, but very different, skills. To me, that means that the two fields will appeal to two very different kinds of people, depending on individual temperament.
Project management is very tactically focused. It's all about defining the job and getting it done. It seems reasonable to me that the kind of person who manages projects is also tactically focused, and temperamentally oriented toward the realization of ideas.
On the other hand, I see executive management as more strategically focused, more about defining a strategic vision and deciding which projects to undertake to realize that vision. It seems reasonable to me that the kind of person who becomes an executive is also strategically focused, and temperamentally oriented toward defining strategy and how to achieve it.
What do you think?
Are project managers under-represented in the executive ranks? If this is true, do you see this as a problem, generally speaking? Personally speaking?
Do you have aspirations to become an executive? If so, do you see being a project manager as an obstacle to those aspirations?
Do you believe that project managers are temperamentally different than line managers? Why or why not?
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