The real secret sauce? Our middle managers

7 September 2023


Today, many organisations experience a growing need to establish and maintain strong values, a healthy corporate culture and clear purpose-driven leadership, and middle managers are more important than ever. However, middle managers often find themselves overlooked and underappreciated in many organisations.

It is time to recognize the power of leadership in organisational development and to elevate middle managers from being overlooked to being celebrated as the driving force behind organisational growth and development.

Middle managers are the glue that holds organisations together, responsible for bridging the gap between senior leadership and all the employees. These great people are trusted sparing partners by senior management and employees, but middle managers are frequently undervalued despite their vital role and untapped potential.

The challenges of the middle manager

Middle managers often face the burden of misconceptions that hinder their growth and impact within organisations. These misconceptions perpetuate a belief that advancement can only be achieved through promotion out of their current roles, leading to a lack of recognition and appreciation for their unique skill set and quickly hitting the glass ceiling.

We all need to appreciate that job importance is not determined by organisational hierarchy: The number of people reporting to a middle manager does not define the significance of their role. Their ability to connect and integrate people and tasks is what truly drives organisational effectiveness and, in my mind, undervalued.

Therefore, advancement for middle managers should include more than promotion. Contrary to popular belief, career advancement does not only have to depend on moving up the corporate ladder. Middle managers can make significant contributions and drive positive change in their current positions if we, as senior management, are aware and work proactively with this organisational challenge.

In my view, there are some unique challenges for the middle managers that can hinder their performance effectively:

First, senior leaders often feel compelled to promote top-performing middle managers into positions where they can no longer fulfill their passion for coaching and connecting with people. This shift can lead to a loss of engagement and impact for these individuals.

Secondly middle managers who excel in their individual roles are often promoted without considering their suitability for people leadership positions. This can result in managers feeling overwhelmed by administrative tasks and needing more skills and support to lead effectively.

And lastly, middle managers who remain in their roles may find themselves burdened by administrative tasks and restricted by leaders who do not empower them to make meaningful changes. This lack of autonomy can hinder their ability to drive innovation and growth within their teams.

It is time to recognize the power of leadership in organisational development and to elevate middle managers from being overlooked to being celebrated as the driving force behind organisational growth and development.

Peter Østergaard
Co-CEO, Delegate

What makes the middle manager so great?

So, what do middle managers do better than most others in the organisation?

They can connect and integrate people and tasks, ensuring effective team collaboration and coordination. With their skills, organisations can function cohesively; they are the glue.

They are the main communication channel in the organisation. Middle managers are a crucial communication link between senior leaders and frontline employees. Their role in translating strategic objectives into actionable plans and providing employee feedback is vital for organisational alignment.

Middle managers support change as they often identify areas for improvement and innovation within their teams. Organisations can foster a culture of continuous improvement by empowering them to make changes and supporting their initiatives.

They possess a unique skill set and are crucial in bridging the gap between senior leadership and frontline employees. Embracing their leadership and providing them with the support they need will drive organisational success and foster a culture of excellence.

That’s why our middle managers are the secret sauce in organisational development and a healthy organisation.