Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Creating Exceptional Workplaces and Extraordinary Results
Roberta Matuson's Blog

Leadership Starts In the Middle And Not At The Top

You are the team leader you jump firstIf you believe leadership starts at the top and flows downward through the veins of the organization, then your organization is a heart attack waiting to happen. Television series like Mad Men showcase a time when leadership started at the top. The guy in the corner office with a cigar in his mouth gave the orders and everyone followed suit. Those days are long gone, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless your organization does a poor job of selecting and training leaders who reside in the middle.

Mobilizing your workforce to quickly achieve targets set by top management requires a team of managers who can effectively lead from the middle. You can accelerate this movement in your organization by doing the following:

Key in on the real movers and shakers.  The real movement happens through middle managers. Prepare those in charge of carrying out the marching orders. Trust the people you’ve placed in management, and provide them with guidance on how to handle situations that will at times feel uncomfortable.

Capitalize on ideas presented by middle managers. Middle managers are closest to the end users and are usually the first to know about problem situations. They have ideas that can turn these situations into gold mines. To create an innovative middle management team, you have to make it okay to try new things and to fail. Otherwise people will merely execute what they are told to do, and will do nothing more.

Tap into the informal organization to catalyze great work. Much is written about the formal networks that exist in organizations. However, there is a more powerful network that exists in companies. We call this the informal network that operates behind the scenes. Here deals are cut daily among people working in the middle layers of the organization and those they supervise.

Take Action

Strong leadership in the middle will produce outstanding operational results, easing the need for top managers to oversee and intervene in day-to-day operations. A strong middle-management team also will proactively develop a constant stream of new ideas to remedy problems and seize new opportunities. Middle-management excellence is key to achieve great overall performance.

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