How to Lead from the Middle

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As we look at people in authority today, it’s easy to become disheartened, despondent and disillusioned.  Super powers are being led by ignorant, ineffective, self-serving egotists.  Organizations are being run by people in authority who use their titles, positions and power to dictate, manipulate and control.

Being a middle manager or direct report in this environment can be daunting and cause you to want to give up, move on or play it safe until things change.

How should you lead if your company is being run by Senior Executives that are dictatorial, authoritative or downright ineffective?  The answer is simply this: Lead where you are and lead yourself well!

But how is this going to help me combat the leadership above that is stifling and holding me back, you might ask?  How do I make decisions if my hands are tied behind my back and freedom of speech could get me sacked?

Throughout my professional career I have had the opportunity to lead from the “C-Suite” as well as the middle.  Without doubt, my greatest accomplishments have been achieved as I have impacted change from the middle.

As a middle manager, you don’t need to give up in despair but rather tap into the power that is already in your hands and make the changes your organization needs, with or without your manager’s support!

How to lead without a title, authority or power:

  1. Lead Yourself Well – work to your strengths and do your job well.  Accomplish tasks well, meet deadlines and always exceed expectations.
  2. Practice the 80/20 Rule daily by spending 80% of your time working with your immediate team or the people you work closely with and 20% of your time on the “busy work”.  That is, the work that needs to be done but can be delegated or completed later.
  3. Lead with Authenticity and Empathy – get to know your team members well so that you can place them in their strength areas and help them to develop in the areas where they need to learn and grow.
  4. Build trust – Practice what you speak and teach, always!  Show your team that you are not perfect and are willing to own your mistakes and failures.  Always tell the truth and build a culture of transparency and honesty. Also, avoid negativity and gossip.
  5. Lead by example – never ask a team member or peer to do something that you are not prepared to do. Remember, people might not always listen to you but they are watching you!
  6. Speak up – a wise person once told me; “Speak up, as a closed mouth don’t get fed”.  In order to excel and succeed as a leader, you must be prepared to speak up at the right time.  Never be afraid to offer your opinion and never keep quiet if you see something wrong.  Your people will respect and support you, if they know they can depend on you to communicate effectively and courageously.


Take on board these six principles and practice them daily and I guarantee you, you will be ready for that next promotion.

No one will be able to stand in your way once you prove that you can lead without the big title or fancy corner office.  Cream always rises to the top, naturally and smartly.

Countries and companies are crying out for authentic and inspiring leadership.  Lead where you are right now and don’t wait for change, as it might never come.

Don’t allow someone else to be the “lid” that shuts you up and keeps you down.  I urge you to be courageous and adventurous.  Be the change you want to see in your organization today!


Paulette Burgess: Performance Specialist @ Create One

Paulette has over 40 years of business experience and has worked internationally in the public and private sector, developing managers and teams. She is passionate about coaching and developing people to tap into their latent potential.  Her unique leadership style and innate sense of humour has inspired and motivated many men and women to achieve and excel beyond their own self-belief.

Contact her directly if you would like to discuss how she can help you develop and grow in your role