The key to excelling in professional life is always to surround yourself with exceptionally smart people. Where can you find the exceptionally smart people? Not in the lower rungs of the organization (unless it is a small startup or consulting firm or a flat organization like Google). Smart folks will only be at the top. To become a great head honcho, you need to be in close vicinity of the head honcho. Not only do you imbibe a lot from the smart folks around, but it is precisely at this level that you can showcase any positive attributes that you have within you - positive qualities that can make a positive difference to 'many' others.
Let me try to explain. If you are in a menial, subordinate job, or lower rungs of the organization, sure you can display your skillful, honest, hardworking and helpful nature. But it makes a difference to a lowly few. Also, there are far less challenges at that level, for you to truly test your mettle; qualities like leadership, patience, decision making never come into play.
Only at a management level, will you have the opportunity to develop these aspect
s of your personality and put them to good use. Able leaders and bright colleagues will demonstrate ways of doing things well. Mediocrity at that level stands out and mediocre people are dumped (unlike at subordinate level where they just continue to thrive). It is trial by fire.
Only to differentiate yourself from that bunch, will set you on the path to professional nirvana.