Can you be a leader while in “Middle Management”?

This week I want to reflect a little more on leading from middle management. Is it possible to provide leadership when you you are stuck between the masses and your bosses? From experience, if you are in middle management, you feel you are either advocating for those below you or doing the grunt work for those above you.

Like always it is important to come back to the core (The Why) and remember a few fundamentals.
What is leadership? For me leadership is being able to developing a team and initiating change.
That means, in your job as in middle management, if you have the chance to lead a group of people and initiate change, then you are in a position to be a leader.

Thinking Selfishly.

I think that the difficulty in middle management is that it is easy to get resentful or bogged down with work given to us from above. The key to not getting into this position is THINKING SELFISHLY.
This means developing your own goals for your team, having a clear vision and sticking to this religiously. I know it sounds bad, as we are always supposed to ‘follow the party line’ and refer to our annual goals. But I firmly believe as a middle leader you must selfishly pursue your own vision for the group of people you look after.
If all you are doing is following the vison and ideas of those above, you will quickly realise you are doing their grunt work and not leading. You will get pulled in all different directions, find yourself taking on more work, and feeling overwhelmed for a vision you have little influence over.

How to do this?
Focus on small important things in your area of influence.
Set clear priorities for yourself and your team.
Have a clear goal around your team.
Have self-control and don’t let everybody’s issues make you lose focus.

For me as a middle manager one of the key things I have focused on recently is ‘improving teacher practice in the classroom’. This has been my primary focus as the leader in my department (8 teachers) for the last 18months. I see this as a real area I can show leadership, develop my skills and – if we are honest – is an area that most school leaders don’t focus on. It has meant that I have deliberately focused on this and have been willing to not complete other tasks because it is not part of ‘improving teacher practice in the classroom’.

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