I realize people don’t like the “middle-manager” term, but in reality, most of us are “middle managers.” We might prefer being the top person in charge or focus on being at the bottom of some organizational pile, but most of us manage from the middle. We manage people (ourselves at a minimum) but we also report to people too. We’re in the middle. In some of our relationships, we’re accountable to leaders for a particular job. But in other relationships we hold others accountable. Our relationships go both up to our leader and down to our team.
We also have relationships that go across to people or groups who are not our supervisor or our direct reports. We have peers inside our company; people at the same level either organizationally or functionally who provide different functions but for the same company. There are also vendors or partners. These are the companies who supply key products or services as components of our overall solution. Finally there are customers. We don’t report to them, but we may be doing our jobs to be judged by them as internal customers. We may actually serve people or companies who provide the revenue that our company uses to operate. We call these horizontal relationships and many times they can be more complex and less stable than our vertical relationships.
If you have more than one of these relationships going as part of your career or life, you’re a middle manager. Welcome to the pack.
Our pack needs leaders. Leadership is a skill everyone exercises. As John Maxwell stated, leadership is influence. Leadership can be learned, taught, practiced and performed. Everyone leads in some fashion. An effective leader influences broadly across multiple groups to motivate change. The best leaders seem to influence people effortlessly.
Most growth in the area of leadership is self-motivated. You need to process your experiences to develop your leadership skills. It doesn’t just happen naturally. You’ve heard it said that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Everyone has hundreds or even thousands of life experiences that can teach them how to exercise influence better. The best leaders learn from these experiments and use them to grow.
Leadership is also amoral. Like money, it can be used for good or evil, for oneself or for others, for one or many. Those of us in the business of leadership often speak of leadership as only that which brings about good, but in reality, Hitler was quite a leader. Your particular political party has no monopoly on leadership either.
In every relationship, you can use influence to make a positive difference. You can bring your influence skills to bear in every relationship, and if your goal is win-win relationships, most people will follow your leadership. You will build your influence skills and your confidence. Every chance you get to make a positive change becomes a brick in the foundation of your leadership launch pad. Over time you will build a reputation as a leader. You will create a portfolio of relationships where you made lives better, helped careers, assisted success. Your legacy is the memory of positive differences you made in the lives of others. Simply practicing your leadership skills with your friends and coworkers builds your legacy. You can be a Leader From The Pack.
So take a minute and think about what you can do today to influence your relationships and make a positive difference. Our world needs you to build your legacy today. Will you do it?