Leadership: What the middle-management needs to learn

Mid-level managers constitute the precious internal talent from where the top-level leadership will emerge

Bhavna Dalal
Published: 13, Mar 2019

Bhavna Dalal ( www.bhavnadalal.com) is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners [www.talentpowerpartners.com] a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India. She is a Team Leadership Coach with ICF PCC Certification, IIM Calcutta Executive MBA, and B.E.(Electronics). Also, the author of the book Team Decision Making [https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01MXF5QEM] endorsed by former CEO's of Target, Lowes, LimitedBrands,bank of Baroda, 3M , Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Dr. Manoj Pardasani (Associate Dean Fordham University) and many others. Bhavna has been serving on the Board of Directors of Bodhi Education Society (A not-for-profit that supports schools in rural Andhra Pradesh in India ) for the past 5 years.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Middle-level managers have a very crucial role to play in the success of any organisation. They are responsible for shaping and crystallising their organisation’s vision and strategic outlook. Mid-level managers constitute the precious internal talent from where the top-level leadership will emerge. The jump from middle management into senior leadership is most extensive and most challenging.

What must a middle managers powerful leadership programme look like?

Embrace change Navigating change is the new constant. Not only do leaders have to be good at that, but they also have to learn to lead a successful transition. They have to learn to communicate a compelling change message and gain a broader and stronger commitment. They have to be prepared to identify, unlock resistance and remove obstacles to change. Mid-level managers have to be prepared and must first assess personal and organisational readiness to take on this challenge of deliberate and disruptive change.

Communication: The language of leadership 
Communication can always be refined. Developing the ability to read verbal and non-verbal cues during a conversation becomes very important. Understanding the importance of healthy conflicts and managing them is the art you learn by practicing.

How to think strategically 
Strategic thinking is a mindset, and is rarely spontaneous. You must flex the muscle of learning to move from tactical to strategic. (Learn more about the difference between strategy and tactics in a previous article: The difference between tactics and strategy). For leaders, it is important to understand relationships among the multiple moving parts of the business model, both present and future trends, identify assumptions and understand the bottom and top line and deep-dive into the market disruption strategies.

Aligning resources
Contextual leadership intelligence is an intuitive skill that enables a leader to align resources with objectives. What this essentially means is to get better at understanding individual needs of team members, gauge the readiness, skill and morale levels of team members, identify your own personal leadership style, and adapt your leadership style to meet the individual needs of team members.

Leading a modern workforce: There is as much to learn as there is to teach
While mid-level managers have fairly decent exposure and experience in managing multi-generational differences, their understanding of the impact of the modern workforce on business has become critical. They have to be cognitive of the factors that influence each generational set, uncover the differences and commonalities across demographical employee groups and incorporate communication strategies to flex their styles and work effectively across different generational groups.

Collaborating effectively
Not only do you have to recognise the significance of seeking collaboration within and across teams, you also have to foster effective cooperation amongst team members. Learn to identify the different ways of improving the collaborating of team members and identify barriers to effective team collaboration.

Managing stakeholders
Stakeholder management at this level is a necessary skill. Building and balancing trusting relationships with internal and external stakeholders, reducing and uncovering risk through effective stakeholder management and improving stakeholder perception of success are some measures of success.

Managing team performance
You have to be a fantastic people manager. That is non-negotiable. The skill to identifying what helps team performance versus what hampers it, goal setting and managing the objectives decided, performance management, mentoring and coaching to identify and bridge performance gaps are crucial to master.

The middle-management leadership programme must be designed to provide participants with a recognition and appreciation of their strengths as leaders. It must enforce the power to lead people, processes and change for exponential growth, for themselves, their teams and the organisation.

The author is a Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India.

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