How Do You Lead From the Middle?

Many people are frustrated by their managers.  We want our managers to live up to our expectations, our hopes, our projections.  We want them to be charismatic, thoughtful, insightful, inspirational, good communicators, etc., etc., etc.  Some managers are good, but few are perfect.  Some are far from even being good.  What if that is your manager?

Do you just stop?  Do you wait for that manager to get moved, fired, or retire?  Do you look for another job?  I vote that you do none of these things.  I vote that you start being a leader.  Get proactive.  Lead from where you are.

How Do You Lead From The Middle?

Figure Out What You Want To Accomplish

What is it that you think your manager should be doing but isn’t?  How can you accomplish that without your leader actually doing it?  Is it something that your manager’s manager has to agree to?  Or his peers?  If so, how can you persuade them?  How can you help them see the problem and the solution?  Maybe they can persuade your manager if his blessing is required.  Or maybe his blessing isn’t really required.  Think about it.  If his boss can bless it, then figure out how to make that happen.  If that is your goal, then you can get creative about how to do it.

What if no one really has to bless it?  What if you and your peers can do it if you are working together to do it.  How can you persuade your peers to do it?

Figure Out What Is In Your Way

So often it is our mind set about how the organization works that stands in our way of getting things done.  We think that the top has to tell the middle who has to tell the bottom to actually get things done.  That actually is not the best way for an organization to run.  Organizations are much more effective and well run if people step up and do what they can and leave the problems/the barriers/the white space to the upper levels.  In other words, your organization will be much better run if you actually step up and do what you know is right for the organization.

Obviously, some organizations don’t work this way.  Some managers get really threatened by this kind of behavior.  Don’t assume that is true of your organization, though, unless you test it out a bit.  I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”  It certainly is more practical.  If you have to wait for someone to decide to focus on what you think needs to happen, to then be persuaded, and to then give permission, then you’ve just inserted significant delays into the process.  Take a long hard look at whether you’re deferring because you are conditioned to do that or because it really is not safe to go ahead without permission.

Being Proactive Is Really Career Enhancing

I’ve participated in hundreds of interviews over the course of my career.  When it is obvious that a candidate is likely to be proactive, to seek out ways to make things better without waiting to be told, then that candidate is much more likely to succeed in the process.  I’ve had people tell me that it is possible to tell whether someone has the education or the experience necessary to do the job, but very difficult to tell from the resume whether s/he is likely to be proactive.

Leading from the middle is simply being proactive.  See the problem.  Figure out how to fix it.  Fix it.  So much of it is attitude and confidence.  So next time you’re frustrated with your manager for not getting something done, ask yourself why you aren’t getting it done instead.

 

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Communication, Executive Development, Leadership, Success

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