When I was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army my rank and position placed me in the middle of the leadership structure.
My soldiers looked to me for guidance as their leader while at the same time I had to follow and implement the plans of leaders at the top…
Sometimes, I would find myself thinking, “When I am in charge…” As I grew and developed as a leader, I realized I was short-changing myself. I realized my success as a leader was determined by how much influence I had with others. Influence, not the position was the difference maker.
This post is the second in a series about leadership based on John Maxwell’s book The 360° Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization.
Maxwell highlights seven myths of leading from the middle which are common viewpoints expressed by mid-level leaders. He emphasizes leadership is not determined by the place an individual sits but by the choices made by the individual. Therefore, an individual’s disposition is more important than the position.
Maxwell’s seven myths of leading from the middle are:
#1 – The Position Myth: I can’t lead if I am not at the top
#2 – The Destination Myth: When I get to the top, then I’ll learn to lead
#3 – The Influence Myth: If I were on top, then people would follow me
#4 – The Inexperience Myth: When I get to the top, I’ll be in control
#5 – The Freedom Myth: When I get to the top, I’ll no longer be limited.
#6 – The Potential Myth: I can’t reach my potential if I’m not the top leader
#7 – The All-or-Nothing Myth: If I can’t get to the top, then I won’t try to lead
Maxwell asserts that 99% of all leadership occurs not from the top but from the middle of the organization. However, these myths prevent leaders from becoming more effective.
I came away with some significant lessons from the myths of leading from the middle. For one, leadership is not a destination; it is developed daily, not in a day. Also, effective leaders continue to grow and hone their skills.
Additionally, Maxwell believes good leaders rarely think in terms of boundaries; instead, they think in terms of opportunities.
In our next post we will discuss The Challenges 360° Leaders Face. Until then, reflect on what myths may be preventing you from becoming a more effective 360 degree leader…
Dr. Kim Moore
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