In Organizations the three aspects of leading from the middle involve
- Commitment, where one needs to be committed, understand the vision and purpose, and most importantly be competent to lead.
- Managing your bosses and the people who report to you. This is an essential part of leading from the middle, and comes from confidence of knowledge of the market, the customers, the technologies, the processes, and very importantly your own organization
- Leading from the middle of an ecosystem of businesses/organisations that compliment your own business/organization.
Commitment is a choice, a choice of ownership of the organization that you choose to lead from the middle. In leading a team, it is important to distinguish commitment from competence. There are a lot of competent people with out commitment or passion. And one of the things I have learnt over the years of managing people, is that passion is the more difficult aspect to inculcate.
In an age where most information is a google search away, the confidence of knowledge, is often mistaken to be an abstract concept, and the confidence of knowing is mistaken to be the confidence of having accomplished the things you know about. Achieving the goals of your organization, working through the details and having it done yourself gives you the ultimate knowledge. Case studies etc. can not substitute experience , they can only offer some insight.
Leading from the middle of an ecosystem really means partnership. It means to truly build internal and external partners who compliment your organization. Conceptually building partnerships is easy, but in practise it is very difficult. From a business perspective, partnerships have different shades, like technology partners, commercial partners, Industry focused partners etc. One of the most natural tendencies in many partnerships that I have seen, are for the partners to look for exit strategies even before the partnership really matures. Thought of exit strategies come up because one believes that their organization could get better margins without the partner, because the partners get "scared" of dependency, and a score of other reason. Ultimately, looking for exit strategies is an excuse , often the main reason is because you do not want the partner to be extremely successful.
On a final note, not all people can lead from the middle. The challenge for senior management is to identify and encourage the right people to lead from the middle. This requires the courage at an organizational level to encourage friction!!