Take a moment and do a simple Internet search for “Middle Manager.” The following less-than-inspirational headlines may appear in the results:
- “Why Middle Management Is So Unhappy”
- “How Middle Managers Can Lead More and Do Less”
- “Why Being a Middle Manager Is So Exhausting”
- “Three Root Causes of Middle Manager Underperformance”
- “Excess Management Is Costing the US $3 Trillion per Year”
- And “The End of Middle Management”
You’re clamoring to become a Middle Manager, right?
Across nearly all industries and organizations, the same underlying career path exists: a path that starts in a supportive, analyst role (learning from mentors and driving value), progressing to meatier roles of independent responsibility and accountability, and ultimately reaching levels of supervision and the holy grail of strategy. The transition from one role to the next is typically determined by an assessment of the candidate’s skills, such as: strong teamwork, clear communication, comprehensive analysis, confident decision-making, effective leadership, and the likes. These are the skills frequently equated with achieving success and becoming a Leader.
Somewhere on that path, Middle Managers exist. Often overlooked by other alluring titles that evoke a sense of prestige and status (e.g. Director, Vice President, Chief Anything), being a Manager is hardly desired. Yet, it is the core function of a Manager to effectively lead multiple teams, empower a diverse set of individuals, and translate the visionary aspirations of the organization’s leaders into tactical, tangible results. A brand may stem from a leader’s vision, like Elon Musk’s Tesla, but brands continue to exist, innovate, and transform the lives of ordinary people thanks to Middle Management.
Quite a different picture than what the Internet search results return.
Simply put, Middle Management is stigmatized in public and under-appreciated within organizations, yet they are the ones that make it happen.
So, how, when, and why did this come to be? Is it that through films like “Office Space,” TV shows like “The Office,” and cartoons like “Dilbert” that Middle Managers have been portrayed as ineffectual, boorish, and dull, making the position seem undesirable? Is it because that as a society we only ever seem to focus on the most ostentatiously successful, or boisterously accomplished among us, leaving the unsung, hardworking heroes in the dust? Or have corporate structures formed in a way that doesn’t give enough recognition or appreciation to these critical players?
Over the next couple of months, I will be exploring topics within Middle Management in an effort to change the search result headlines, showcase the influence of being a truly effective Manager, and outline ways current Managers can maximize their impact.
I could not be more excited to explore these topics and re-brand the Middle Manager. Stay tuned!