Conceptual competence is the ability to envision a big picture goal and strategy and subsequently offer direction and leadership in task implementation to achieve it. While managers and supervisors at all levels benefit from conceptual skills, they are especially important for top managers who provide overall direction for an organization.


A common leadership trait among top managers is their vision. They have minds that constantly look ahead toward an end goal or company objective. This vision is what provides the framework for the structure and actions of a company. Within a company, top managers normally develop long-term vision and set the course for the company, while supervisors carry out directives in leading their employees on that course.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is the periodic process of reviewing company plans of action and updating them when necessary. For instance, a company may have a growth strategy of diversifying its business by adding new product lines and services. Top managers normally lead in the strategic planning process and then convey the tasks required to front line supervisors. They then carry out directives with their employees by delegating tasks to each.

Broad Thinking

A major crossroads in business conception is taking big picture goals and strategies and outlining how each functional department in the organization participates. This is a critical element of conceptual skills that makes good top managers successful. They can effectively communicate vision and strategy to get supervisors on board, and then explain how each functional department participates in the process. For instance, top managers often involve human resource professionals in strategic workforce development to ensure the company meets its talent needs to carry out its goals and strategies.


A major reason top managers need conceptual skills more than supervisors is that this scenario gives the company more stability. Rather than waffling around with new goals, strategies and task roles, conceptually-skilled managers can keep the organization on the right track and make minor tweaks in strategy and tasks as needed. Employees have more faith in their business when top managers project a good sense of the big picture and the details of the operations. Supervisors are looked to more for task direction and motivation of employees in completing their specific job functions.