British managers are plagued by a sense of regret, with many believing they have failed to reach their true potential, blocked by a combination of red tape, too many day-to-day pressures and lack of support from their bosses.
A survey by the Chartered Management Institute has found that managers at all levels exhibit high levels of activity and energy at work, but feel held back by bureaucracy, poor resources and a lack of guidance and help.
At the same time, employers, it appears, are failing to get the best from their employees, with fewer than half employees polled believing they are fully using their skills in their current job, and just three out of 10 adamant they "play to their strengths".
More than one third of managers frequently looked back over their career and wished they had developed new skills.
More than two thirds thought they should have asked more questions of their peers and colleagues and one in five often considered how they could have progressed more quickly by "taking more risks".
Nearly two thirds of managers claimed to be energetic at work, with a similar number actively looking to take on new projects and more than half prepared to "go the extra mile" to achieve success.
More women (31 per cent) than men (25 per cent) constantly tried to beat targets or deadlines, said the CMI.
Asked what reduced activity levels at work, managers cited bureaucracy as the core problem, with 23 per cent saying they felt held back by a lack of resources.
Junior and mid-level managers were more inclined to blame stress than senior managers and directors, and more female managers claimed they failed to achieve their potential because of a lack of internal support.
The survey also explored the factors that helped most managers develop their career.
Top of the list was "developing experience within one organisation", followed by external influences such as the achievement of professional qualifications and support from networking or mentoring.
But many managers also admitted that they were not keeping up-to-date with current market trends.
Fewer than half agreed they were well informed about budgetary or financial management issues and just six out of 10 agreed they were aware of management best-practice.
Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the CMI, said: "The ability to achieve their potential is clearly at the forefront of individuals' minds.
"With only 20 per cent of the UK's management community boasting a professional qualification, it should be a comfort to employers that their managers are actively seeking ways to improve.
"However, it remains a concern that so many admit they are failing to keep up-to-date with vital skills and market trends. If individuals and organisations are to prosper, this situation must be addressed," she added.
The CMI has launched an online tool - www.managers.org.uk/active - for managers to help them build their knowledge base and advance their careers.