Learning to Lead from the Middle

“Tips for Women on Being an Effective Associate Leader”

By Pamela L. Ebel

“No matter what your accomplishments, someone helps you.”

Althea Gibson

Most of us still subscribe to the old mantra “Take care of the company and the company will take care of you.” Many of us have missed the new work place reality in the new millennium. There is no gold watch at retirement and in fact for many no retirement. We continue to believe in the old mantra even as the statistics tell us that more than 50 percent of us will be employed outside the traditional workplace in the next decade. We believe it even though research tells us most in the 21st Century workforce will change jobs upwards of 13 times and will be forced out of positions with parachutes that barely get them to the ground without crashing.

So what are we to do to survive and thrive in the Brave New Workplace? How are we to start developing careers that will allow us to grow and blossom so that we can ultimately finish strong as we reach and pass each benchmark in the journey? I would like to share four suggestions on how women can “lead from the middle” more successfully.

The Mission Statement is the Message!

Almost every company, corporation, business entity and educational institution has a mission statement. While the originator of the statement and the rational for it are probably long forgotten head executives will know the essential message.

Learn that mission statement and its’ history. Talk with employees with longevity, not necessarily seniority, about how the business has changed and evolved over years and what their take is on where the company is headed. Try to ascertain why they have survived when others didn’t.

Include Your Staff in the Mission Statement Process!

If you wish to be successful educate your staff on the mission statement and goals as you have learned them from upper management. Explain how you see yourself, them and the department’s work in advancing the mission and seek their input and feedback. Educate them on corporate policy shifts and impending changes. If you try to hide the possibilities that may threaten their job security or may require major changes in work descriptions and work load they will cease to trust you. Information, even when unpleasant, is a powerful weapon in your arsenal for maintaining the work ethic and loyalty of your staff.

Give the “Power Back to the People” Whenever Possible!

One of the most frequent and debilitating mistakes an associate leader makes is the failure to delegate the decision-making process when appropriate. It is remarkable that we continue to deny staff in which we have invested time and money for continuing education skills development the opportunity to perform for themselves and on our behalf.

Invest in problem-solving techniques training for your staff and yourself. Pay close attention to staff interactions and seek out opportunities for decision sharing and document the results in writing.

Give the Credit for the Work of Your Staff to Them!

If you would be a successful associate leader you need to learn to provide opportunities to display the talent, creativity, and hard work of your staff. Provide constant feedback, both positive and negative, so that they will feel that making changes and improvements in their work product is noticed and appreciated.

If you refuse to share the limelight with staff for fear of being overshadowed you will engender resentment and lower the overall caliber of the work product that ultimately bears your name. Let your superiors know that you want the best for the company and that means getting the best work out of everyone in your department. Let them know you do not fear sharing the spotlight and you will be seen as someone with a strong sense of security in your work product. If you would survive, thrive and drive toward your individual finish line you will need to define what it means to be an associate leader. Learn to trust yourself. And remember “Be Happy while you’re living, for you are a long time dead.” Scottish Proverb

Pamela L. Ebel
New Orleans, Louisiana
“Leading from the Middle”
Pamela Ebel is CEO of Prime Time CLE Institute and on the adjunct faculty at Tulane University

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