How to Raise Leaders as a Mid-Level Manager

Today we are going to be talking about how to raise leaders up if you are a mid-level manager.

Now, why is this a problem? Why is this a difficulty? In the world today, we have a lot of managers. This is necessary because managers are usually the people who maintain the status quo in a business or organization. They make sure that KPIs are met, goals that we set beforehand are hit, and everyone follows the strategic direction of the business.

Every business needs managers, and every business also needs leaders. And if you are a manager, the thing is that you hold a position that is good and respected. When you’re a manager, you’re in the best position for everyone that you’re handling to look up to you and say, “That is my leader.”

Now, how are you, as a manager, going to be raising up other people who can lead? Because here’s the thing: If you want to move up the ladder from a mid-level manager and go up to higher management — maybe even the executive level — then you need successors. That means you need to train and raise the right people to help fill your current position.

If you’re unable to do that, then it’s going to be difficult for you to climb up the ladder further, because upper management is going to look at you and say, “Well, who’s going to take your place?” 

So you need to learn how to raise up leaders among the people that you lead, and among the people that you manage, and this is how we’re going to do that. 

There are going to be five points to this—no more than. We’ll stick to that.

The first is this: Lead from the front, do not manage from behind

A lot of managers what they do is they bark orders, they delegate, and that’s pretty much it. They look for the results and when the results are not there, they get mad, irritated, and angry. They treat people as if they’re just there to produce output.

And, a lot of people don’t really give their respect and trust to managers like these. Yes, they might produce the results they’re looking for, as their job dictates, as their managers demand. But guess what? They’re not going to give you their trust, which is the most important thing for any good working relationship.

If you want to raise leaders, they have to trust you. And if you’re just barking orders from behind, your people won’t trust you much.

The difference between managing from behind versus leading from the front is that people see that you are taking charge, and actually doing the work that needs to be done. You’re actually good at it—and you help them do the work as well. 

This ties us to our second point, which is: Serving others is a necessity.

As mid-level managers, people will be able to see if you are a good leader or not, and they will be inspired to be like you (or not) depending on how you serve them. 

What do I mean by serving? This doesn’t mean that you’re subservient to them, that you just keep saying yes, that you just keep allowing them to do certain things that you—or your company’s handbook—may not be completely agreeable with. That’s not what I mean.

What I mean by serving them is that you serve them when they do something wrong. You ask them to clean up their act, you’re there to coach them and ask them, “Why did you do this? How can we make it better? How can they help you there in this area? How can the company provide the resources for you so that you’re able to do the work faster and in a better way?” 

That is what I mean by serving them.

As a leader, you have to support them, make sure they are equipped well to do their work, and be there whenever they have questions when they have concerns when they face roadblocks in their work. That is serving them.

Don’t just say, “Figure it out on your own.” Don’t just say, “It’s your job to do this, do it. I don’t really care how you do it. Just do it.” Those things are not really encouraging. 

You have to be there and be part of the solution. Serve your people. That’s how you earn their trust and their respect. Lead from the front, don’t manage from behind, and serve others.

There is a story about the American Civil War. In it, a general who commissioned the major of an army says, “I want you leading the charge tomorrow, because everyone else will see you leading the charge, and they will be encouraged and inspired to do so and retake that hill.”

And there were big guns—gatling guns, machine guns—on that hill pointing down at them. The situation looked very bleak as if they could really never take the hill. 

But the Major mustered the courage to do so and led the charge from the front. Everyone rallied behind him.

Of course, leading from the front as a major is the most dangerous thing you can do, because there are guns pointed right at you. He could easily have been torn to pieces, but he did so anyways — and everyone rallied behind him. They took the hill and conquered that area.

That is the perfect picture for our lesson today: being a mid-level manager and yet you’re leading from the front, and you’re serving everyone who is following you.

Our third point for today is: You have to be intentional about growth. 

A lot of mid-level managers (and even managers at large) are comfortable with where they are. So, their growth goes to the backburner and stops being a priority.

They don’t read books, they don’t listen to podcasts, they don’t go to seminars, and they don’t get mentors anymore, because they might be at that point of life that they’ve thought of living already.

In short, they’re comfortable. They’re comfortable with their entertainment already. They’re comfortable with the time that they check in. They’re comfortable with their relationships in the office. They don’t want to stretch things.

You see, comfort is going to be the antithesis of growth. 

Notice that it’s during the times you’re comfortable that you’re less likely to experience growth. You will not be able to grow and stretch yourself, because you’re happy with the status quo. When you’re happy with the status quo, you will want to stay in the status quo—you’re not going to want to grow anymore.

And so, this is the thing that is blocking a lot of mid-level managers and is choking them from raising up leaders. Because you cannot give what you don’t have. 

If you’re not growing, how can you pour into the lives of others and also help them grow?

You cannot because you yourself are stale. You’re like a reservoir of water where water flows in but it doesn’t ever go out—it doesn’t flow through you. What happens is this water then becomes stagnant. You become a marsh, something muddy and unpleasant, and no one wants to swim there.

Becoming a reservoir rather than a river where water is flowing through you and being shared with the rest of your people, and even your colleagues in the office, there’s a huge difference.

When you’re a river, you’re full of life. People are going to be more encouraged to swim there because the water is clean, and it’s alive. We call it living water. So the river is a picture of growth. You’ve got something pouring into you, so you have a lot to give out from you.

On the other hand, being a reservoir means there are only trickles of water coming into you. And these tricks are something you are hesitant to give out. Thus, you become a reservoir. 

This is why you have to be perpetually intentional about growth. With growth, there’s something pouring into you so that you can pour out to others. If you want to raise leaders, you have to make sure you yourself keep growing.

The next point we have today is: You have to tie up leadership in your daily agenda.

Whether in your meetings, in the work itself, in your one-on-one coaching, or in your evaluations with your people, you have to tie up leadership in your agendas.

How you do that is you teach people what you know, and what you’re learning about leadership. This connects to our third point. If you’re growing, you’re learning, you get to know new things. New things pour into your life. Now you can teach it and share it with other people.

And because you believe the things you’re learning can create value in other people, you just can’t help but share that thing with other people in your life. It’s just like how, after you have watched a really good movie, you can’t help but talk about it and share it with other people—in spite of having no other incentive to do so. 

Lastly, the fifth point today is: Keep a keen eye, keen eye or ears or keep an open mind about your potential leaders. 

You have to scout these potential leaders that will be replacing you someday.

One of my mentors, John Maxwell, says, “There is no success without a successor.” 

That is 100% true. In my own company, SEO Hacker, there have been times when people would leave. At times, there would be no successors.

As a CEO, what I see that is the person who left—whether they resigned or they want to move up the ladder—was not responsible and has a lot of growing to do in his or her life, because they left without a successor. There was no success in the position that they held in SEO Hacker.

That happens in all businesses and in all companies. But that’s not going to happen to you because you’re tuned in here right now. 

So scout for people, keep an open eye, keep an open ear. Make sure you’re always intentional about who has the potential to grow and become a leader, and lead in your stead when you move up. 

And that’s going to be leading me to my challenge for you, especially those who are mid-level managers or upper-level managers. Write down three names. Keep it between you and your spouse, you and your family, or keep it to yourself. 

Write down three names of people you think have good potential to become leaders and pour into their lives.

Be intentional about your growth so that you can help them grow too. Be intentional about serving them, asking them how they are, how you can help them, how you can equip them, how they can grow, and how the company can provide resources for them to grow as well. You have to be intentional about this.

Now some of them might say, “That’s not for me.” That’s okay. You have to keep on encouraging these people. Creating leaders is tough. If it wasn’t, we have a lot more leaders in our world today. But in reality, we do not have enough leaders. That is the truth.

I hope that you learned in this short and quick post about how mid-level managers—or maybe even upper-level managers—can raise up leaders.

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