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The Unique Psychology of Being a Middle Manager

Idea posted: June 2021
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Caught between low-power employees and high-power executives, the ‘middle power’ of middle managers keeps them hopping between the roles of subordinate and superior. A new Theory of Power framework helps middle managers, their bosses and their organizations identify the challenges and psychological consequences of their caught-in-the-middle position. 

Idea #795
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Hierarchical or Egalitarian Organizations? The Advantages of Hierarchy

Idea posted: September 2014
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change

While hierarchies can be used by people in power to control others, new research indicates hierarchies also help people in lower positions to feel a sense of control and order in their lives. Change agents who are flattening hierarchies to create leaner, more effective organizations must make sure that they don’t unintentionally undermine this sense of order.

Idea #436
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King Lear, a UK TV film version, 2008, starring Sir Ian McKellen, Frances Barber, Romola Garai, Jonathan Hyde and Sylvester McCoy; directed by Sir Tevor Nunn and produced by Paul Wheeler for Channel 4

When Allowing Decision Latitude Can Backfire

Idea posted: September 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

The best leaders today avoid micromanaging their employees, recognizing that giving employees job autonomy and decision latitude — allowing employees to make decisions concerning their work — will result in greater motivation and better performance. New research, however, shows that too much decision latitude can backfire. Instead of being viewed as effective and conscientious leaders, the research shows managers who give their employees too much discretion and freedom in decisions and managing their work will be viewed as not being conscientious about their work.

Idea #212
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Flattened Organizations: When Cons Outweigh Pros

Idea posted: February 2013
  • Strategy
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Operations

When an organization is ‘flat’ employees report directly to senior managers; but as management layers increase, so too does the hierarchical gap between employees the CEO and the C-suite, leading to decision-making being focused at the top of the organization. So should firms eliminate these layers in order to shift more decision-making powers downwards? Well, this Idea shows that this may in fact achieve the opposite. Flattening can lead to more control at the top. 

Idea #083
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Blacksmith, India, C19th, British Museum

Leadership Tools: Magnet to Pull, Hammer to Drive

Idea posted: January 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: IESE Business School

Theorists often speak of management ‘tools’ when discussing resources. This Idea explores how successful leadership is based on two tools from the tool-shed, the magnet and the hammer, and shows how, with an understanding of why and when to use these tools, managers can effectively lead their teams through challenging circumstances.

Idea #009
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Bricklayer to Architect: How Managers Become Leaders

Idea posted: January 2013
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
Institutions: IMD

Many executives making the shift from leading a function to leading an enterprise can stumble as they take the step up. It’s tough to do. We are asking someone to shift from left-brain, analytical thinking to right-brain conceptual mind-sets. It’s a big change. Michael D. Watkins highlights seven Seismic Shifts here that allow the emerging leader to do that over time: to draw focus from a wider lens, and make the transition successfully.

Idea #060
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