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How to lead from the middle

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Are you at times discouraged with the lack of responsiveness by others in your company to requests or recommendations that you make? Or perhaps you are not getting the results you would like in your process of transforming prospects into clients?

Everyone occasionally experiences the frustration of feeling they are not being heard, but why is it that some individuals appear to struggle to get what they want while others seem to do so effortlessly? The simple fact is that in order to influence the behavior of your employees, clients and colleagues you must intentionally leverage the power of your leadership role. For many business owners or entrepreneurs this premise creates an uncomfortable reaction because they may not consciously desire to be a leader or acquire power. Regardless, you cannot afford to underestimate the critical roles that leadership, power and influence play in your ultimate success. Therefore, to gain your desired outcome, you may have to broaden your perspective of what constitutes leadership.

Leading From the Middle
Most people recognize the importance of gaining respect from colleagues and clients. In fact even employees who don't aspire to have a defined leadership role in a company will often exhibit behaviors that positively impact others. Think about your own workplace. Do you have untitled colleagues whose opinions or approval are continually sought, both by those who are “under” and “above” them? Those people have figured out how to lead from the middle, serving in an influential role without the benefit of a formal title. There's no reason why you can't do that as well.

The concept of leading from the middle suggests that success is not dependent on a formal title, but rather on an acknowledgement of those key behaviors that can impact the influence you have on others. In fact, it isn't necessary to have a title to be a company leader/influencer. John Maxwell, who's authored numerous books on leadership, including “Developing the Leader Within,” notes that relying on a title is actually the lowest form of leadership.

This is great news for anyone who desires to be influential within an organization, including the CEO. That's because although you have the power that's inherent in a top title, good leaders are more than powerful — they're influential. These are the skills that can help you inspire the best effort and work from your employees. By understanding the behaviors that influence people around you, you increase your chances for guiding them more effectively. Below are Maxwell's Five Levels of Leadership. Review them to establish what level you operate on now and think about what you can do to move to deeper — and more influential — levels of interaction.

- Position. This is the basic entry level of leadership, where the only influence you have comes with the title.
- Permission. Colleagues and clients see that you've developed impressive interpersonal relationships, and you care about them and what matters to them.
- Production. Colleagues and clients begin to respect what you've contributed to them, as well as the organization, and admire you. This is imperative — along with trust and credibility — to be considered a leader.
- People Development. You demonstrate the ability to contribute to colleagues' and clients' future success; people grow through your mentorship and become loyal to you.
- Personhood. Your colleagues think you're amazing.

No matter what your title or level of leadership, here are a few things you must also always keep in mind as you seek to wield influence:

-Your success will always come down to whether people trust and respect you.
- Your behavior must be aligned with organizational values.
- You must say what you'll do and do what you say, i.e., walk the talk.
- You need to be good at what you do while ensuring your colleagues and clients understand you're a big-picture person who really cares about them and the organization.
- You must become an advocate of mutual respect, finding value in others as you seek to ensure they value you.
- You must always be aware of your tone, and how others perceive you.

To be a key influencer, your colleagues/clients/employees must respect you, see you as being consistent, and know they can count on you. You must own your own power. You need to not only view yourself as a leader and actively embrace your leadership role, but acknowledge the great opportunity you have to be impactful — especially if you have a seat in the boardroom.


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