Middle Leadership

Everyone is familiar with the term “middle management” but the term “middle leadership” is rarely heard. 

But the vast majority of leadership actions come not from the top but from the middle of an organization. That a person needs a high position or important sounding title in order to lead is perhaps the single greatest leadership myth of all. 

The top leaders in an organization may indeed make the biggest decisions but it’s all the daily decisions made by people in the middle leadership roles that make those big decisions possible. 

Top leaders who forget that do so at their own peril. 

Many people in the middle of an organization believe that they can’t lead because they don’t have a position or title of leadership. That’s just not so! 

Not only can you lead, you can lead in all directions. You can of course lead down the organizational chart, you can lead across and you can even lead up. You don’t need anything other than influence and a desire to make a difference from wherever you are in your organization. 

The key to leading from the middle, well really leading from anywhere, is to first lead yourself exceptionally well. To lead yourself you must be able to make your own decisions. You also must be able to complete your work without requiring a ton of help and input from those around you. 

You must be able to manage your emotions and attitude in such a way that your presence adds value to those around you. I understand that no one can do that 100% of the time but putting a  little focus in that attitude control area will make a big difference in creating a positive influence with those individuals you would hope to lead. 

Never never forget, your attitude is your choice and it is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make. 

Integrity is an absolute must for Authentic Servant Leadership and the ability to control your emotions and maintain a positive attitude are not far behind.

So…who controls your attitude?

How Easy Are You to Lead?

I speak and write often about the concept of 360 Leadership. The idea of 360 Leadership is simple; you can lead today, right from where you’re at in your organization. It doesn’t require a raise or a promotion or a fancy title, all it requires is a decision that says I will lead today.

360 Leadership means that you lead in all directions – you of course lead those below you on an organizational chart, you lead your peers across from you on an organizational AND you lead above your position on the organizational chart.

It’s the last one, “leading up” in an organization that is tough for many people to grasp. Many people believe it is wrong or even impossible to lead the person above them on an org chart. After all, that person above you is most often your boss and you can’t boss the boss.

Leadership however isn’t about bossing, it is about influencing. You most certainly can influence your boss IF…

I could write for hours on that “IF.” To keep this post from going on forever here’s what it amounts to: to have the opportunity to lead up in your organization two things must happen. You must be a great follower and you must lead yourself very well.

If you want to know how you measure up in those two areas then consider this question: If your company was struggling and needed to let people go would they be looking for ways to keep you or looking for reasons to keep you? If you have the courage to answer truthfully then you’ll know exactly how you’re doing.

There is a world of difference between the two. That difference is almost completely within your control.

When you decide that you want your organization to consider you a “must keep” you’ll see that being a great follower and leading yourself well go hand in hand. You’ll also see why being a 360 leader is the surest way to job security.

360 leaders largely ignore their job descriptions, they do everything listed on it but they also do so much more. They will work alongside their peers to help them succeed. They will “lead up” by helping their leader accomplish more. They will do whatever is asked of them, no matter who asked it. They will do it all with a positive attitude and they will do it because it is the right thing to do.

When you’re a great follower and lead yourself exceptionally well you become easy for leaders above you to lead. When you’re easy to lead your influence grows and it grows in every direction within your organization.

Choose to lead today and your chances for success in your organization and life go way way up!