Advancing for Leaders

Advancing for Leaders in the Middle

Working in the middle is tough.
Your boss has priorities. Your direct reports have questions. Peers and colleagues may be asking for your help.
In your career, you reached this position by working hard and helping others. However, you may need more to keep advancing.
Often people find themselves taking on more work and trying to play the middle man between the competing priorities that exist within the organizational structure. They perceive what’s going on in the organizational system as being personally motivated as opposed to the way the system operates, Lisa Sinclair, CCL’s Senior Faculty and Portfolio Manager for the Americas.
You may feel pulled personally in a dozen directions, yet the truth is that’s often the system — you just happen to be in the middle of it. Managers in the middle may be
• Vice presidents
• Directors
• General managers
• Regional managers
But the pressures are similar regardless.
The key to succeeding — and retaining your sanity — is learning to navigate that system. Key skills are:
1. Thinking and acting systematically
2. Communication
3. Influence
4. Self-awareness
5. Learning agility
6. Resilience
Lead from the middle are those who are able to harness these skills to manage organizational complexity. They are also more likely to advance, less likely to experience career derailment, and better able to manage not only work obligations, but family, community, and personal demands as well.

Advancing Through Leadership
Many managers seeking to “lead from the middle” have been rewarded in their careers so far for their ability to effectively and productively take on greater responsibilities and more work.
However, these managers find that their ability to succeed purely through their own efforts is reaching a ceiling. As you become more focused on leadership, you must learn how to get things done through others.
The higher up you go, the more you have to learn to work through other people and influence the system.
You should learn to:
1. Bridge the gap between senior management and the front line.
2. Lead across organizational or geographic boundaries.
3. Collaborate with others, including those with different communication styles, personalities and backgrounds.
4. Manage stress, build resilience, and leverage multiple life roles.
5. Solve complicated problems and take wise action in a complex, rapidly changing environment.
You should break down the walls across organization to really learn what it’s like to sit in those different seats so you can have a greater and deeper appreciation for how the organization really works.
Seeing other perspectives helps those leading from the middle understand that the demands on them aren’t personal, but the result of how organizations work. And how nearly all organizations work is predictable.

Building Resiliency
Leaders at this level are around the age where their stress is not just at the office. Therefore, Ambitious managers often find their family and personal lives become more stressful around the same time. Young children and aging parents can squeeze mid-career professionals – Pressure from one easily seeps into the other.
That’s why resilience is among the most important skills for mid-level leaders to master.
If you aren’t any good for you, then you aren’t any good for anybody else. Resilience reduces the risk of leaders burning out professionally, and also ensures they’re doing what they need to with their health and their families to be truly successful.
Learn strategies and tactics to ease stressors yet still be very successful at getting the work done.


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