When I assumed my first Company Command, I followed a very charismatic leader who was the picture of what a shoulder should look like. I was the first female leader of the organization.
I was excited and fearful at the same time but how would I move the organization forward? Would my boss value my strengths and talents? How could I connect with my peers but also shine?
This post is the third in a series about leadership based on John Maxwell’s book The 360 Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization.
A leader in the middle on a recurring basis experiences the challenges discussed by Maxwell. Those seven challenges are:
#1 – The Tension Challenge: The Pressure of Being Caught in the Middle
#2 – The Frustration Challenge: Following an Ineffective Leader
#3 – The Multi-Hat Challenge: One Head…Many Hats
#4 – The Ego Challenge: You’re Often Hidden in the Middle
#5 – The Fulfilment Challenge: Leaders Like the Front More Than the Middle
#6 – The Vision Challenge: Championing the Vision Is More Difficult When You Didn’t Create It
#7 – The Influence Challenge: Leading Others Beyond Your Position Is Not Easy
Because leaders in the middle wear numerous hats, prioritizing is a critical component of being an effective leader. Many mid-level leaders feel pressure from being caught in the middle, however 360° Leaders learn to lead despite the restriction others place on them (Maxwell, 2005).
Leaders in the middle must navigate between the internal desire to be the star and being a member of the supporting cast, especially when the leader is ineffective.
Maxwell reminds his readers “that consistently good leadership does get noticed.” He also states in order for leaders in the middle to become a 360° Leader, they must understand their role and purpose, which is not to fix the leader but to add value to the organization.
According to Maxwell, 360° Leaders think influence, not position. “Leadership is more disposition than position – influence others from wherever you are.”
And now, the rest of the story…
Well, after assuming the job, things began to fall into place and I spent less time second-guessing and more time leading myself. Leading from the middle can be like swimming against the tide, however if you understand the tide cycle you can swim with the tide, expend less energy, and achieve your goals.
My next post will examine The Principles 360° Leaders Practice to Lead Up. Until then, reflect on what challenges may be holding you back from leading in all directions.
Dr. Kim Moore
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