Leading from the Middle

When one considers the stratification of his or her job’s management, his or her perception of leadership typically only takes into account two levels of workers. One is considered a leader or “top,” or a low-level employee, a “bottom.” In considering this relationship, modern ideas of leadership have forsaken a group of key stone employees. Reporting to both groups in equal measure, the middle managers play an unexamined yet powerful role in the facilitation of a company’s goal fulfillment. Capable of making or breaking a company, middle managers have not received the recognition they deserve, a situation that University of Illinois Springfield alumnus and adjunct faculty member Kevin Purcell sought to rectify with his ECCE speaker series event, “Leading from The Middle.” 

Having retired as the Senior Manager of Organization Development at Microsoft Corp., Purcell carries a history focused on increasing the efficiency of leadership chains. Using his unique qualifications, he prepared a two-and-a-half-hour interactive lecture aimed at teaching individuals to recognize what he refers to as human systems and strategies for leadership specific to each tier of employee. 

Utilizing a series of interactive activities, Purcell gave attendees a chance to experience the difficulties of each tier in a human system and illustrated the importance and power of each one. After splitting attendees into groups of tops, middles, and bottoms, Purcell posed various business scenarios that encouraged them to engage in what they believed were ideal leadership tactics. After an initially rocky start and some helpful coaching into the nature of human systems, Purcell was able to pass on a few tricks and tips that helped the groups create a communicative bond that maximized their efficiency. Although it seems paradoxical, Purcell taught his audience the skills required to form a chain of command suited to the modern era.