The Role of Middle Management Leadership: Realizing A Desired Culture

Middle Management Leadership Role

High performance organizations continually reinforce the traits of openness, collaboration, creativity and innovation. Middle management leadership plays a critical role in transforming and maintaining such an organizational culture as the new normal.

In order to develop and establish a culture of high performance leadership, we propose that training and development initiatives target the middle management leadership of the company. Middle managers are best positioned to begin actualizing the desired culture in their respective departments. When this implementation process begins at the middle management layer, positive transformation of the company culture toward alignment with the new vision can occur from the bottom up. Generally speaking, this is a more effective and enduring change strategy than attempting to simply mandate change from the C-Suite down.


Defining An Inspiring New Vision For Company Culture


The process of defining an inspiring new vision for a company’s culture is done with all members of a company, or a group that is representative of the company as a whole. This is carried out in a single room, where employees and/or their representatives brainstorm and collaborate toward the creation of the new vision. Once senior leadership approves the vision, it can mandate a middle management leadership training initiative to develop and empower middle managers to begin the process of realizing the vision as a daily workplace reality.

As senior leadership entrusts middle management with making the new vision a shared reality, these managers take on the role of championing the desired new culture. The role of middle management training is to prepare these managers to be successful champions. Once training starts, the managers translate the vision into specific goals and activities for each area of the organization. Through engagement and collaborative dialogue with their facilitator and peers, these managers can discern what their departments might keep, delete, and create new in order to advance toward the vision.

The leadership training cohort of managers, in their role as champions of the desired vision, begin to live and breathe the new culture. They are then positioned to deeply influence the rest of the company to get onboard with the vision.


Facilitating Horizontal Collaboration


Realizing the inspiring new company vision will require the managers of every department to collaborate and work with their colleagues in other departments in an open and trusting way. This is the foundation that enables different departments to communicate and collaborate horizontally with each other – enabling them to move from theoretical alignment to functional, inter-departmental alignment. Some byproducts of this functional alignment across departments are marked improvement in communication and robust process efficiency across the entire organization.

Collaboration drives creativity and innovation, all of which translate to better results. Through collaboration, we have better awareness. With better awareness comes better decision-making – which in turn leads to better bottom-line results. While the bottom-line results of collaborative activity may be the ultimate reason for encouraging collaboration, early training should prioritize the process of collaboration itself, instead of valuable work outputs. Managers must be given time and bandwidth to prioritize strong interpersonal relationships and practice the moves of collaboration.


Managers Champion The New Vision By Getting Results Through Their People


Empowering managers to get results through their people means preparing them to eventually apply what they are learning in their respective departments. The trainee will become the trainer, as a coach and cheerleader for their direct reports. This means that the manager undergoing leadership training is progressing through a sequence of Learn, Do, and Teach.


LEARN: Acquire the principles of high performance leadership.

DO: Apply and reinforce the principles through experiential activities, group projects, and coaching. The aim of this stage is for the principles to become the manager’s new high performance habits.

TEACH: The manager applies what she has learned by assuming the role of coach and mentor to her direct reports, empowering her to get more results through her people, instead of her personal work activities.


Training and development is crucial to activating your middle management leadership in the role of spreading high performance leadership to every level of your organization.




While achieving a new company culture where high performance leadership exists at every level of the organization isn’t necessarily easy to achieve, the map for getting there is proven. Undertaking the process can also be very exciting and dynamic for everyone who participates.  We are available to discuss what this process might look like in your organization.

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