“Middle management refers to managers who are below the top level of management, and who are responsible for controlling and running an organization rather than making decisions about how it operates.” This is how the colin dictionary defines middle management.
Middle managers are in a challenging role
Based on DDI’s research, data from assessments, and experience working with organizations worldwide, here are four areas where middle managers make the most impact.
Accelerate change at the speed of life
Middle managers can be a catalyst to accelerate change and transformation. We know businesses are changing faster than ever. So, if you don’t have strong mid-level leadership, then you likely don’t have the glue to hold the organization together as it drives forward or tries something new.
Companies need mid-level leaders that can drive change quickly while managing complexities. For example, think about the novel challenges brought on by the hybrid workplace or changes to data and privacy laws.
Mid-level leaders experience unique pressure to interface with executives on business strategy, then translate that into words and actions that make sense to the rest of the organization. They also support their peers and teams to keep everyone moving toward the organization’s goals.
Empower multiple teams
The second area where middle managers make the most impact is navigating multidirectional expectations. This includes working across teams and often breaking down silos. Mid-level managers need to engage and empower their teams, which may require different tactics depending on the different disciplines that report to them.
Navigate visibility and vulnerability
Middle managers who can successfully navigate increased visibility and feelings of vulnerability are in a better position to help their organizations succeed. For example, middle managers who can do this well are more likely to take calculated risks to spur innovation and are better able to make quick decisions, which also benefits innovation. Mid-level leaders who can manage vulnerability are not derailing their teams and instead are modeling great leadership behaviors—including leading authentically. Authentic leaders manage vulnerability and build greater trust with their teams.
Lead a complex network
Today there is heightened pressure on mid-level leaders to cultivate and maintain a productive network across their organization. Leading complex networks is a skill that is crucial to keeping the organization humming along and problem solving quickly.
Middle-managers are best positioned to create the conditions for employee engagement. The best thing an organization can do is focus on the middle-managers and give them the support they need.