Middle managers have more impact on the culture than the executives do.
Integrity tests are part of leadership. How a middle manager navigates those tests can send ripple effects throughout the rest of their career and the careers of the people they are called to lead. But as leaders, we often minimize the impact of our choices to what is going on right now - the challenges of today.
Instead, we need to look down the road and think about how those choices impact who we are becoming and our legacy on the lives of others.
Four Integrity Tests Middle Managers Face
Do we arrive on time for our own meetings? Do we call people back when we say we will? Do we ask headquarters the questions we promise to ask? Do we get our reports in on time?
These are all Integrity tests. My dad, The General, used to say “Your word should be gold.” That means your word is valuable. Don’t cheapen it by failing to keep commitments.
Avoiding Gray Areas
We can be unethical rule followers. The gray areas are often the areas where there are no rules. This leaves it to us to decide what is good, right, and proper in that situation. Do we hold that line or do we blur the line?
When there are no clear rules, the choices we make are Integrity tests. What we choose leaves a lasting impression on the people around us, both at work and at home.
When we are stuck in the middle, there is a lot of opportunity to blame both the people above us or below us on the org chart. The people above us may make our lives more difficult with policies that don’t make sense. The people below us may be a challenge to lead and have their own agendas.
The Integrity test here is to realize the leader is still ultimately responsible for the performance of that team. The circumstances, policies, or people who make it difficult do not give us a free pass to mediocrity or even failure. We are accountable for finding a way in spite of those challenges.
The problem with being in the middle is our people want us to say something to headquarters. But the people in headquarters are a couple of levels above us in the organizational food chain. They are busy and may not want to hear from middle managers at our level.
The Integrity test for a middle manager is to know our Duty, both to our people and to the organization. Our Duty is to make things better - for both the people we lead and also the people we are led by.
Many people see Integrity as knowing the difference between right and wrong. But true Integrity requires all of us to have the Courage to take action. Middle managers have more impact on the culture of larger organizations than the executive leaders do. The actions of a middle manager in the face of these four Integrity tests will be emulated by the people they lead. When that leader passes these tests, that team grows and that leader’s legacy becomes one of Integrity.
Dig Deep Questions:
What other Integrity tests do middle managers regularly face?
What is the effect on the team when a middle manager passes those tests?
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