Leading Change from the Middle

A Practical Guide to Building Extraordinary Capabilities

Introducing reform, nurturing innovation, and otherwise effecting change in organizations are commonly discussed challenges in management circles.

Bookshelves abound with theoretical analyses, how-to guides, and personal success stories by famous corporate leaders, public officials, even athletic coaches, expounding on how to lead from the top. But what about those midlevel managers who find themselves tasked with trying to reshape, reorient, or create the capabilities of an organization? What about leading change “from the middle” is different and unique compared to leading change from the top? There has been no framework to guide managers faced with that unique and vexing set of challenges—until now.

Using authority alone is out of the question—midlevel managers do not have authority over all the relevant people and units. Relying on empowerment and engagement won’t work either, because so many of the folks that need to be empowered actually answer to someone else. The “manager in the middle” may not be in a position to command actions and investments from other areas across the organization. He or she must look up, down, and in every direction in search of collaboration.

In Leading Change from the Middle Jackson Nickerson—manager, professor, writer, and organizational consultant—introduces a new way to think about leading change from the middle. His framework employs a unique toolkit and approach to leading organizational change—an approach that has been tested with executive MBAs, government executives, and professional managers in real organizations. In presenting this material in a concise, accessible, and applicable format that translates theory to practice, Nickerson provides an important service for leaders trying to build extraordinary capabilities for their organizations—from the middle.

About the Book

About the Authors

Jackson Nickerson is the Frahm Family Professor of Organization and Strategy at Olin Business School, a nonresident senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and director of Brookings Executive Education.

Ronald Sanders is a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton and the firm’s first fellow. He also has served in a number of senior U.S. government posts, including Associate Director of National Intelligence, Chief HR Officer for the Internal Revenue Service, and Director of Civilian Personnel for the U.S. Department of Defense.