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The Courage it Takes to be a Middle Manager

The common denominator was Courage…or the lack of Courage.

Middle Manager literally means you are caught in the middle. You need an umbrella and wading boots for the stuff that flows down from above and bubbles up from below. But leading from the middle has a lot of good things about it as well.

When I was a middle manager, I loved being close to the people on the frontline who made it happen everyday. They were the face of the company to the outside world. They were also our company’s future, and developing them was my job.

I loved the fact that I had some leaders above me who truly cared about what I saw on the frontlines. They listened to the feedback I brought to the table. They also helped me see the bigger picture when my point of view was too narrow based on my position.


It wasn’t always this way. The people on the frontlines did not always do their jobs well. And, the leaders above me could be close minded careerists. Sometimes the people I led created conflicts with customers or with each other. Sometimes my leaders pushed us to do things I did not agree with or even strayed into the gray areas when it came to Integrity.

In those days where the stuff was piling up at my feet and cascading down from above, I had choices to make. Sometimes I made bad choices, and sometimes I made better choices. When I look back on why I made those bad choices versus the good choices, I see one common denominator - Courage…or the lack of Courage.

If you are in middle management you know it takes Courage to:

  • Have a hard coaching conversation with an employee.

  • Provide honest feedback to upper management.

  • Put your reputation on the line to support an employee.

  • Put your reputation on the line to support a decision from upper management with which you don’t agree.

  • Listen to honest feedback from your team about your own performance.

  • Speaking up when you see a former peer cutting corners.

  • Speaking up when you see your own leaders cutting corners.

We define Courage as “Acting despite perceived or actual risk.” As a middle manager you are going to face both perceived risks and actual risks. Each time you choose to exercise Courage - or not - that choice will make it easier for you to make that same choice the next time.

The middle manager is the person who is the direct supervisor of your company’s next generation of leaders. What they see you do will likely become what they do as well. The old saying goes “More is caught than taught.” What are they catching from you?

Courage, or something less?

Dig Deep Questions:

  • Why do you think middle managers settle for something less than Courage?

  • How does that affect the person they are becoming?

What is a test you may face this week? How can you face it with Courage?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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