Four Ways to Lead from the Middle


Couple of weeks ago, another Authentic Leader, Krista Kotrla and I connected to the topic of  how non-leaders lead. We collaborated together on several insights described in this post.

Our ability to make a positive impact in the world does not necessitate a leadership position. Opportunities may come along and it only requires a certain set of behaviors that define leaders from non-leaders.

In any organization, it’s often individual superstars in non-leadership positions that can have the most impact on the company’s products and services.

But often we don’t realize the opportunity and power we have until we are in a leadership position, which may be too late.

Great leaders amplify their skills of interpersonal influence rather than the means of positional authority.

So, how do you lead if you are in a non-managerial position? Here are some suggestions on how to lead from the middle:

4 Ways to Lead from the Middle

 1.       Leading with Questions

You may not be the one “in charge” but you can always lead with great questions. Try out a few of these and see how they can change the course of an entire conversation or meeting:

  • What if…?
  • Have we considered…?
  • Could you clarify what you meant when you said ___?
  • What do the rest of you think?
  • What have we possibly overlooked?
  • Who else should we invite to be part of this?
  • Is the issue we’re talking about here is the real issue?
  • What must be done first?
  • Could you describe in detail what success looks like for this project? What can I do to help?

2.       Take Responsibility

Step up. Speak up. And Brave up. Embrace responsibility even if you are faking it at first. Is it really fair to expect people to follow you and trust your ideas if you seem unsure of yourself or unwilling to accept full responsibility? Ask to take on new projects. Dream up a new initiative. Mess up, own up and describe what you learned from the experience.

Try again. Deliver. Get results. Improve a system that already exists. Get bigger results. Offer to participate on an existing project. Offer to recruit more help.

3.       Always Be Able to Answer WHY

When you’re the person consistently answering WHY questions for others, people begin to instinctively lean on your insight.  Why is this project important? Why are we doing it this way? Why me? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, go back to point #1 –

Lead with questions, so that you can gain a deeper understanding and begin articulating with clarity for others. Why? Because leading from the middle is all about your ability to have a positive influence on the people around you.

4.       Lead with Enthusiasm and Energy

Your emotions are contagious. Think about the leaders you are drawn to. They have vision, passion and a belief in a better tomorrow. That’s why we are drawn to them and want to follow them. They are going somewhere awesome and we want to be part of it. Now think about the emotions you display.

Be honest with yourself. Are you a complainer, a Debbie-Downer, portraying a victim mentality or perhaps just quietly flying under the radar waiting for someone to magically invite you into leadership… sorry, not going to happen!

We are drawn to passionate people on a mission that we believe in. Give people a reason to follow you.

Even if you’re not in charge, you can always take responsibility for raising the energy in the group and rallying people around a shared mission. Bring your enthusiasm. Inspire the team. Lead from the middle and you will make a big difference.

4 thoughts on “Four Ways to Lead from the Middle

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