Category Archives: leadership

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The possibilities of a middle management role

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For a little more than a month now, I have been writing about topics related to middle management. In early December, we began with a discussion of why these people—particularly those in the middle of large industrial groups—seem to be so discouraged and disengaged.  When I started writing about managers and engagement, I cited studies that indicate that only about 30 percent of workers are truly engaged in their daily work. At the same time, I gave some examples of manual laborers who were able to give meaning to even the most mundane of tasks—cleaning hospital rooms or refurbishing wooden wine cases, for example—by reframing their jobs.  One of my purposes in presenting … Continue reading

How Gandhi inspires middle managers to lead

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There is a potential drawback to using the stories of great men such as Gandhi when I teach a seminar or work with middle managers in companies. People sometimes react by commenting that such examples are interesting but far removed from their realities. How much can we take the lessons of men and women who have truly changed the world and apply them to our day-to-day lives and jobs?  So, I do ask myself at times if it is perhaps too much of a “stretch” to think that middle managers can utilize lessons from important historical figures as they go about their daily business. After some thought, though, I have come … Continue reading

More on the three paths

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When I teach about the three paths we often have before us (discussed in the previous post)—to leave, accept, or master your context—I sometimes illustrate the concept with a transformational event from the life of Gandhi.  The reasons I keep coming back to this particular story are several. First, Gandhi’s experience refutes one of society’s great myths about leaders, that they have some sort of natural or divine gift. Second, the choice Gandhi makes one day in South Africa shows that extraordinary leadership often begins when an ordinary person makes the simple decision to take a stand. And third, Gandhi’s situation is is a clear illustration of the three paths we discussed in … Continue reading

A story of three paths

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After the last post, I received several requests from readers for a further explanation of exactly how I use the term “surrender to the context.” So, my purpose today is to elucidate this concept and to fit it into a broader picture. If we consider any situation that is making us unhappy, we can often view it in terms of three possibilities, or what I have come to call the three paths before us. At work, for example, if we are frustrated by the organization’s culture or the behavior of our boss, one of our options is to resign from our post. Of course, this assumes we have the freedom … Continue reading

Leading from any seat at your table

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I ended our previous post with a brief outline of the concepts I would like to address in the weeks to come. It turns out that the first of these, the idea that we all have more influence than we recognize, is so important that it is the only one I plan to cover today. Over the past two decades,  I have seen that this simple realization—that we often have more power than we think to influence our work environments—can go a long way toward making middle managers both happier and more effective.  In the late 1990s, a colleague showed me a book by Ronald Heifitz, Leadership Without Easy Answers. Even before I … Continue reading

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