What Is Management? Definitions, Skills, and Careers

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Do you have what it takes to work in management? Find out what managers do within organizations and discover management styles, job titles, and more.

[Featured mage] A member of the management team, meeting with a coworker.

Management is how businesses organize and direct workflow, operations, and employees to meet company goals. The primary goal of management is to create an environment that lets employees work efficiently and productively. A solid organizational structure serves as a guide for workers and establishes the tone and focus of their work.

Managers are involved in implementing and evaluating these structures. As a manager, you may be responsible for doing any of the following tasks:

  • Create goals and objectives

  • Create schedules

  • Develop strategies to increase performance, productivity, and efficiency

  • Ensure compliance with company policies and industry regulations

  • Mentor employees

  • Monitor budgets, productivity levels, and performance

  • Resolve customer problems

  • Train staff

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Read more: What Is Management Science? + How to Enter This Field

Key functions of a manager

Managers have several functions within an organization. You'll usually see these functions divided into four interconnected groups. Understanding them can help you identify your strengths and areas of need to choose the proper training to improve your skills.

Planning

The first function of a manager is to set goals. These goals may be for individual employees, departments, or the entire organization, depending on the manager's level of responsibility. In addition to setting goals, managers often develop action items along with strategies and resources to complete tasks and meet goals. 

Organizing

Meeting organizational goals requires putting the right people in the right places. Managers can play an important role in choosing workers for positions and projects. Knowing how to group people and help them build relationships often significantly affects how well the group works together. Sometimes managers need to train employees for specific tasks to ensure they have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

Motivating

Managers help motivate employees to show up and stay productive. This includes sharing a common vision, encouraging them to develop their strengths, and inspiring them to do their best work at all times. Having effective communication skills is essential for filling this role. 

Evaluating

Managers typically spend time measuring the success of their teams and how well they meet goals. The more they understand what works and doesn't work, the better prepared they are to make decisions in the future. Managers must understand and adjust strategies to meet company goals.

Levels of management

In many organizations, management falls into one of three levels: top, middle, and low. Managers in smaller companies may fill roles at more than one level, while larger organizations may have several managers within each level.

  • Top: Top-level management typically has an administrative role, and their decisions affect the entire organization even though they sometimes aren’t involved in the day-to-day operations. They may have the title of chief executive officer (CEO) or serve on the board of directors.

  • Middle: You find people with executive roles at the middle management level. They work with both top-level management and supervisors to help workers meet objectives and boost the company's productivity. At this level, they may be called regional managers or general managers.

  • Low: The final level of management often has a supervisory role. These managers have titles like shift supervisor, branch manager, or team leader. They work with individuals and teams to meet goals determined by upper management. They typically have less influence over company policy compared to the other management levels, but the most interaction with workers.

Read more: 11 Key Project Management Skills

Management styles

The way you choose to manage your team or department can have a direct effect on how they're able to meet their goals. What you say and do may send powerful messages to employees about how you value their contributions and your level of trust in them. Understanding different management styles and when they're most and least useful may be helpful. The list below highlights some of the more common styles used by managers.

Authoritative

Authoritative leaders tend to make decisions without feedback from others. This approach works well when you need to respond quickly to a situation and don't have time for debate. If you rely on this approach too much, you may see high levels of turnover within the organization and stalled innovation.

Coaching

Some managers view their role as that of a coach who sees the potential in employees and wants to help them grow. This can effectively build strong teams and create an environment where employees feel comfortable experimenting. Employees typically have a sense of autonomy under this style, but those who need more direction may feel some neglect.

Democratic

Democratic managers value the input of employees in the decision-making process and usually believe having more ideas is better than having a few. This management style may help empower employees and increase their motivation to work toward common goals. However, sorting through all of the voices and finding a consensus to make a decision can take time.

Transformational

In a transformational management style, managers prioritize innovation and growth. These managers encourage employees to discover just what they're capable of achieving. Workers with transformational leaders tend to be happy and dedicated to their work, but they must be able to adapt to sudden changes.

Visionary

A visionary leader knows how to ensure every team member understands the company's vision and is working toward a common goal. These leaders tend to be excellent communicators and typically give workers plenty of autonomy as long as they effectively execute the vision.

Careers in management

Managers work in almost every type of company and industry. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects management positions to grow 8 percent by 2031 as entrepreneurs start new companies and existing organizations expand their operations [1]. The following management job titles show how varied these positions can be.

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers

Median annual salary (US): $133,380 [2]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 10% 

As an advertising, promotions, or marketing manager, you help companies promote their products and services through strategic campaigns. You'll typically need a bachelor's degree in marketing, communications, or advertising to qualify for this type of position. Before becoming a manager, you may build work experience as a sales representative, buyer, or public relations specialist.

Construction managers

Median annual salary (US): $98,890 [3]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 8% 

Construction managers typically divide their time between the office and a construction site. In this role, you may set budgets, hire sub-contractors or crew members, oversee their work, and adjust plans to meet deadlines. Depending on your employer, you may need a bachelor's degree in construction, business, or engineering along with experience as a skilled worker or intern in the construction field.

Read more: How to Become a Construction Manager: Your Guide

Financial managers

Median annual salary (US): $131,710 [4]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 17% 

As a financial manager, you may work in various environments where you analyze data, create financial reports, and help individuals or companies set and meet financial goals. Before pursuing this career, you'll need a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, business, or economics. In some cases, you may want to earn industry certification as well. You can work your way up into this role through experience as a loan officer, an accountant, or similar positions within a company.

Read more: What Is Finance Management?

Food service managers

Median annual salary (US): $59,440 [5]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 10% 

Food service managers work in restaurants, cafeterias, and hotels, overseeing kitchen and wait staff. In this position, you may create schedules, order supplies, and ensure employees follow food safety guidelines. Although you can usually enter this field with a high school diploma or equivalent, you may find it helpful to earn a degree in hospitality management or culinary studies. You’ll likely need some experience working in a restaurant as a cook, waiter, or food prep supervisor.

Read more: What Is Hospitality Management? Careers, Skills, Salaries, and More

Medical and health services managers

Median annual salary (US): $101,340 [6]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 28% 

As a medical or health services manager, you may work in a doctor's office, hospital, rehab facility, or similar environment where you may supervise and coordinate health care providers and support staff’s work. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in health care administration or nursing, and many people in this role also have a master's degree. In addition to the degree, you may consider working in a variety of related positions like administrative assistant, billing clerk, or medical records specialist to gain work experience.

Sales manager

Median annual salary (US): $127,490 [7]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 5%

Sales managers supervise the team of sales professionals in an organization. As a sales manager, you can expect to set goals and quotas for individual sales representatives and teams and track their progress. You may be called upon to speak with customers and handle complaints. You may need a bachelor's degree to qualify for this type of position, but sometimes having experience as a sales representative or buyer can be just as important.

Read more: 4 Questions to Ask Before Pursuing a Sales Manager Career

Next steps

Building and expanding your management skills can be helpful no matter where you are in your career. You can explore what managers do through a course like Principles of Management from Johns Hopkins University, available on Coursera. Learn ways to motivate and influence people in the Leading People and Teams Specialization from the University of Michigan or hone in on specific skills by earning the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate offered by Google.

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Leading People and Teams

Leading Effectively. Learn proven management techniques in just four courses.

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Average time: 5 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Vision Alignment, Talent Management, Goals and Rewards, Motivate Employees, Leadership, goal setting, Communication, Leadership Development, Onboarding, Coaching, Recruitment, Management, Social Skills, Influencer Marketing, Leadership Dynamics, Team Management, Team Building

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professional certificate

Google Project Management:

Start your path to a career in project management. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than six months. No degree or experience is required.

4.8

(67,449 ratings)

862,943 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Organizational Culture, Career Development, Strategic Thinking, Change Management, Project Management, Stakeholder Management, Business Writing, Project Charter, Project Planning, Risk Management, Task Estimation, Procurement, Quality Management, Project Execution, Coaching, Influencing, Agile Management, Problem Solving, Scrum, Effective Communication

Article sources

1

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook Management Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/home.htm." Accessed September 19, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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