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Practice 7: Enable Middle Managers to Constructively Challenge Senior Leaders

19 January, 2016 - 10:47

Many significant organizational disasters—such as the British Petroleum oil rig explosion or the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme—could have been prevented or mitigated if those in the middle management ranks were allowed to voice constructive criticism. Middle managers need to have access to the senior leaders and they need to be allowed to deliver news that is not flattering. As one organizational consultant puts it, “Followers and leaders both orbit around the (organizational) purpose; followers do not orbit around the leader.” 1In other words, organizations must cultivate courage in the middle management ranks to speak “truth to hierarchy,” 2 and senior leaders need to be focused more on the well-being of the organization than on their own personal well-being. 3

In sum, some of your middle managers need to be involved in helping to bring about change, even if they are not the change champions. Organization-wide change is complex and affects everyone. Middle managers can make a major contribution to actively bringing about change or passively assure its demise. Figure 6.1 contains the fourth dimension of capacity for change.

Figure 6.1  The Fourth Dimension of Organizational Capacity for Change: Involved Midmanagement