If you’re a manager in the “middle zone” of an organization, you’re probably feeling pushed, pulled, and torn. It’s the nature of the business.

But this reality doesn’t have to leave you frazzled or angry. Leading in the middle can also be exciting and rewarding for those who are focused, flexible, and strong.

Who is Leading from the Middle Zone?

Managers who lead from the middle may be vice presidents, directors, general managers, plant managers, regional managers, or divisional managers. It depends on the size of the company. Leading from here isn’t about a position — it’s about meeting the demands from above while providing resources to and meeting the needs of those below.

Managers in the middle are in the right place to collaborate with other managers to generate new ideas and solve problems. These managers can gain great experience, be involved in interesting work, and have significant organizational impact. They develop leadership skills that will serve them well throughout their careers.

Middle-zone roles can also be some of the most difficult. Leaders who work in the center often grapple with competing business priorities, competing vested interests, and competing centers of influence and power. They feel pressure from above and blame from below. Influencing peers, navigating partnerships, and finessing politics are also on the daily agenda.

So, how can you adjust and thrive in the center?


The Leadership Development Program 6-Factor Framework

Managers who spend significant time leading from the middle must give up the need to constantly please. Trying to please everyone, you may find that you’re always working but still doubting your ability, impact, and success. As you’re pulled from all directions, it’s important to stay focused on thinking and acting systemically by seeing the big picture and understanding how the various parts of the organization function together.


That’s one of 6 leadership competencies that are essential for managers to learn if they’re going to be effective over the long run. Leadership in the middle zone also requires self-control, clarity, and understanding and empathy for others.

And there’s another essential competency for leading in the middle zone: resiliency.

Resiliency is about handling stress, uncertainty and setbacks well, and learning to maintain equilibrium under pressure. Our Leadership Development Program spends considerable time helping participants find tools for building resiliency for themselves and for others in their organization.

Leaders in the middle also need to be skilled in 4 additional areas:

  • Communication: Modeling effective communication across groups and levels.
  • Influence: Gaining cooperation to get things done.
  • Learning Agility: Seeking opportunities to learn and can learn quickly.
  • Self-Awareness: Having an accurate picture of self and seeking feedback to improve.

Together, these 6 leadership competencies give leaders a roadmap for navigating the twists, turns, and complexities of operating in the middle zone.

Learn more about our Leadership Development Program, where you can explore these 6 competencies in depth.

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