How to Break Out of a “Middle Manager” Mindset

October 18, 2023

Middle managers can have it tough sometimes.

Surveys report that middle management often feels pulled in multiple directions, not only by their employees and their supervisors, but also by stakeholders with conflicting needs while trying to manage day-to-day operations and improve efficiencies. 

Breaking free from a “middle manager mindset” can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how.

Think Strategically

One of the key differences between middle and upper-level managers is that the latter group tends to think more strategically — one step toward achieving executive status. Rather than focusing on day-to-day tasks, they are always looking for ways to improve the overall performance of their organization. The bigger picture is a priority. 

Start adopting this mindset by identifying your company’s key strategic objectives, and then think about how you can contribute to achieving them.

Take Initiative

Another key characteristic of successful leaders? They take initiative. They don’t wait for someone else to tell them what to do. They grab that bull by the horns and take action on their own. This can be as simple as identifying an opportunity to improve a process, or as complex as launching a new product or service.

The important thing is that you take the first step and show that you’re willing to be a leader.

Develop Your Leadership Skills

To move up the ranks, you need to develop the skills and competencies that are required of a leader. But this doesn’t only include your technical knowhow, aka hard skills. Cultivating and honing your soft skills — qualities like communication, negotiation, problem-solving and decision-making — are a significant part of the emotional intelligence essential in an upper-level manager. 

Another way to develop leadership expertise: Look for opportunities to learn and grow, whether it’s through formal training or on-the-job experience.

Build Your Network

Another important aspect of leadership is having a strong network of people both inside and outside of your organization. Work to build strong relationships with colleagues, including your managers and those you manage. Building relationships with key stakeholders and influencers can also help you gain visibility and credibility, which can open up new opportunities for you. 

Seek Out Mentorship

Having a mentor can be incredibly valuable as you work to break out of a middle manager mindset. A mentor can provide guidance, advice and support as you navigate the challenges of leadership. They can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and provide feedback on how to improve. 

Is there a manager you learned from, who showed you the ropes, in the early stages of your career? Do you have a role model at work? Is it someone who you may eventually succeed? Identify your mentor to take the steps to building a relationship with them.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

Remember that leadership often requires taking risks. It’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone, but to truly break out of a middle manager mindset, you need to be willing to step out of that familiar space and try new things. This might mean taking on a new project, leading a team or even starting your own business — each of them experiences that can enrich you personally and professionally, poising you for advancement down the line.

Reach your Upper Manager Potential

Leadership is not always about position, but behavior and attitude. Embrace the mindset of a leader, and opportunities will come your way. With the right frame of mind and approach, you can break out of your current role and take on more leadership responsibilities in the future.

Your next leadership adventure awaits with Pinnacle. Our expertise in finance, technology and legal recruiting helps experienced candidates take the next important steps in their careers. Your future career awaits. Contact us to find out more. 

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