Almost every leader is leading from the middle. The second chair. Looking up at someone above them. However you want to phrase it, virtually all leaders have a boss. If you don’t, you’re either in denial, an unbelievably autonomous business owner, or unemployed. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. But most of us have a supervisor, a boss, a board, a client base, or share holders who greatly define what we can and can not do in our roles.
If you are in that majority group, my bet is that you find yourself frustrated at being in the middle. It might hit you when you have a GREAT idea that will revolutionize your organization and you get shot down like some folk ballad from the 60’s would sing about. Maybe it sneaks in on you when your dream gets closed because someone else allocated some resources to their pet project, and starved your program. Maybe it’s the fact that your boss, if placed in a giant brown paper bag, had the bag hosed down for an hour with a fire hose, and was given a hatchet still couldn’t lead her way out. (At least that’s how you feel right now, today, for one reason or another.)
You can choose to blame someone else for what’s going on. That’s understandable, and you’ll find someone out there to empathize with you, making all of those “oooohhhh” and “yeeaahh” noises that people make to help you feel better when you ramble on. But your thoughts are not truth. They aren’t even very accurate.
Leading from the middle is tough stuff, and requires grit, to be sure. It also requires you to re-adjust your view sometimes. No, that’s not a euphemism for “quit your job, burn down the building, and take a victory lap around the parking lot”. By re-adjust your view, I mean look at the challenges and the opportunities differently.
- Choose to be grace filled. – Whatever you may assess about the situation, and whatever you may determine to be factually true, be grace filled in the situation. The reality is the people around you are just that. They are actual people, with faults, fears, struggles, and weaknesses (even your boss in the giant paper bag). That is reality. Don’t hold them to a superhuman standard. If you are frustrated by those who provide oversight to you, start by looking to be more graceful. Choose to look for the best in those people. That whole idea about treat others the way you want to be treated works in the space between your ears, too.
- Learn how to be humble. – Humility is NOT weakness. Any 12 year old middle school boy can be tough. That does NOT make them strong. It makes them obnoxious. Don’t use a 12 year boy as your role model (for many reasons I can’t even begin to list here). To choose to think of yourself second takes WAY more strength than it does to think poorly of others and blame them. Fight off vindictive or judgmental thoughts. Those thoughts are not facts, they are opinions.
- Chase hard after patience. – You are frustrated because a timeline isn’t being met; it just happens to be your timeline. You have a schedule for what needs to happen, and by when. If it doesn’t, the economy will collapse, the inner core of the earth will implode, and they will never release Star Wars Episode VIII (Does Han Solo come back somehow? We may never know!) But the reality is, your schedule is only your schedule, based only on what you know. It’s a pretty great schedule, but it’s built on a limited data set. When it doesn’t happen, choose to be patient, and keep working towards the next steps. Lean deeply on the grace idea, and choose to believe there are good reasons its not moving at your speed.
These are just three steps we can take. No one can stop you from practicing these things, at any time, for any reason. You own these thoughts, these emotions. You are the only one responsible for them. Feed them, and they will grow, and make you MUCH better. Starve them, and suffer the consequences.
I’d love to hear your thoughts or ideas. What else needs to be added?
*Picture – “Face in the Crowd” by Smash_Method