One common misconception people have is that to be a leader in their particular field, they must occupy the “top spot”. Many of our current flow charts look that way, i.e. pyramids or “top-down” structures.
After 15 years of being on a staff of over 100 people, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to leading teams.
Most people think they should wait to be the CEO before they learn to lead, but experience tells us otherwise. You can lead right where you are!
You can influence those around you, above you, and behind you all in a positive or negative way. First we have to cultivate awareness, then become intentional about developing those relationships.
Let’s be honest, although many think they want to be the CEO of the company, many are just not suited for the job.
In fact the reason most people want to be in charge is they think that if they occupy that spot, no one will be able to tell them what to do. That is just plain wrong thinking. The person at “the top” actually has to put everyone else ahead of themselves, and they answer to more people than you think!
Lets just settle this, you will always be answering to someone. If it’s not your boss, it’s the IRS. And if you don’t answer to them, you’ll be answering to a judge!
Here’s a few practical tips on Leading from the Middle:
Become intentional about developing rapport with your superiors. Make yourself so useful to them that they will cry if you leave. Put “change” in their pockets. Pray for them. Send them cards and encouraging words. You don’t know the burden they carry, so any kind word or encouragement goes a long way! Take the initiative. Buy them books on leadership or whatever interests them.
Your co-workers are not your enemies. Look for creative ways to make others in your department shine. Never throw them under the bus. Put relationship first. Take them to lunch. Buy them gifts that will help them grow. Be and encourager! Speak life into their situations and dreams.
You didn’t get to where you are without any help. Make a decision to offer help and your expertise to those “up and coming” in your field. Make time to pursue those that have shown interest in what you do. Even if it’s just one, look for ways to multiply yourself in someone else. Invite them into your decision-making process. Ask for their input. John Maxwell says “never do anything alone” (or something like that). If you’re going to lunch, grab a learner and take them with you. I’ve learned so much through the years being able to sit and watch those that have gone before me have a conversation. Invite people into your world. You have more in you that needs to be shared! Add value to someone who is younger than you.
One of the greatest things you can do today is add value to those around you. People are looking for someone to notice their hard work, the good in them, and to speak life into the dreams of their heart. Let’s begin a practice of intentionally adding to those around us, and together we can make the place we work better than before!
Lead from the Middle!
Photo: Jamie Rubeis