For years, middle management has been targeted by executives, business leaders, business gurus and so called ‘change experts’ as the origin and cause of all evils. The nicest things said include bottlenecks, resistant to change, blockers of information, micromanaging the troupes and, in general, those who ‘don’t get it’. The problem, that is.
Blasting middle management is a sign of top leadership incompetence. Most likely, all middle managers report to the non-middle ones, that is, upper management, or the ones who usually criticise them. The criticism is sometimes obvious in leadership meetings when people in the room refer to those, obviously not enlightened enough, outside the room, as ‘they’. ‘They’ don’t get it, are a problem, difficult, uncooperative. We, of course, know what we are doing and have complete Light descended upon us. It’s a show of desperation and, for me, a bad behavioural predictor of the leadership capabilities.
I have made myself many times transitory-unpopular (in the road to permanent) when, in top leadership meetings, I have dared to say: all the problems of the organization lie in this room. I have said this very, very nicely.
As top leader, ban the sport of shooting at anybody in the middle management field. Perhaps, once upon a time, you also were middle management. If there is a problem, fix it. Maybe the problem is you. Maybe not. But suspend judgement. Having dead subordinates is not a good idea.
Middle management, when there is such a layer, particularly in medium size or large organizations, is also the repository of a great deal of corporate memory. That may be good or bad. Good if there is a continuous learning mechanism. Bad if this is the reason why you continue to do the same as before and stuck in old practices.
The role of the leader is to make middle management part of the solution, not the problem. Good leadership at the top is more about what happens below, than the maturity, cohesiveness, and alignment of the leadership team itself. That is always the easy part.