Managerial Levels

Learning Outcomes

  • Differentiate between the functions of top managers, middle managers, and first-line managers
Two men wearing suites juggle apples

Being a successful manager can seem like a juggling act—keeping many balls in the air while keeping one’s composure.

All industries need management, and the managers who perform that function need to possess certain skills. Before we talk about those skills, though, it’s important to understand that the title of manager actually refers to three distinct groups of people within an organization: top-level or executive managers, middle managers, and first-line managers. Each level has a different area of managerial responsibility and reporting structure.

Top Managers

These are the highest level of managers within an organization, and they are tasked with setting organizational objectives and goals. These managers scan the external environment for opportunities, help develop long-range plans, and make critical decisions that affect the entire organization. They represent the smallest percentage of the management team. Many times, these managers have titles such as chief executive, operations manager, or general manager.

Middle Managers

Mid-level or middle managers allocate resources to achieve the goals and objectives set by top managers. Their primary role is to oversee front-line managers and report back to top-level managers about the progress, problems, or needs of the first-line managers. Middle managers span the distance between production operations and organizational vision. While top managers set the organization’s goals, middle managers identify and implement the activities that will help the organization achieve its goals.

First-Line Managers

The primary responsibility of first-line managers is to coordinate the activities that have been developed by the middle managers. These managers are responsible for supervising non-managerial employees who are engaged in the tasks and activities developed by middle managers. They report back to middle managers on the progress, problems, or needs of the non-managerial employees. These managers are on the front lines, so to speak, where they are actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.

Practice Question