Leading from the Middle

February 20, 2024

Leading from the Middle

Leading when you're not the boss, especially when dealing with a senior colleague or your own boss, can be a delicate but necessary skill in many professional settings. Here are some additional tips for effectively leading from the middle of the pack:

Establish Clear Meeting Objectives: Start by setting clear objectives for the meeting and communicating them beforehand. This not only ensures everyone is on the same page but can also serve as a gentle reminder during the meeting if the discussion begins to drift off track.

Use Inclusive Language: Encourage participation by using inclusive language. Phrases like "What does everyone think?" or "Let's hear from each team member" can help create an environment where everyone feels valued and is more likely to contribute.


Manage Side Conversations: In virtual meetings, it's common for side conversations to happen through chat or separate discussions. Politely bring these conversations back into the main discussion to ensure everyone is engaged in the same conversation.


Leverage Private Communication: If you need to address a specific issue with your boss or a senior colleague, consider a private conversation. Be respectful and constructive in your feedback, focusing on how it impacts the team's objectives and outcomes.


Time Management: Respect everyone's time by staying on schedule. If your meeting is running out, suggest parking some topics for a follow-up or providing a brief summary of the discussion to keep things moving.


Balance Contribution: If you notice someone dominating the conversation, look for opportunities to redirect the discussion to others. Encourage quieter team members to share their thoughts and perspectives.


Be Prepared: Come to the meeting prepared with relevant data and information. If your boss or senior colleague sees that you're well-prepared and can add value to the discussion, they may be more inclined to listen to your input.


Focus on Solutions: If you need to challenge a colleague's perspective or suggestion, frame your response in terms of finding the best solution. For example, say, "I appreciate your point, and I think we can make it even stronger by considering XYZ."


Demonstrate Active Listening: Show your engagement by actively listening to others. This not only sets a good example but also helps in building a collaborative atmosphere where everyone's contributions are valued.


Follow Up: After the meeting, follow up with a summary of key points, action items, and responsibilities. This reinforces accountability and ensures everyone is aligned on the next steps.


Remember that the goal of leading from the middle is to create an environment where all voices are heard and where team objectives are achieved efficiently. It's about striking a balance between respectful deference to senior colleagues and assertiveness in driving progress. Your ability to navigate these situations can not only enhance your leadership skills but also contribute to the overall success of your team and organization.