Middle managers should display power to get ahead - and be liked

CoolAvenues Newswire | July 08,2013 02:54 pm IST

A new study has found that middle managers need to behave ‘powerfully’ in order to get ahead.


The research, carried out by Professor Laura Guillen at the ESMT business school in Germany, found that displaying certain ‘power competencies’ serves to make middle managers better liked in the office, and more importantly, to get ahead in their organizations.

The study also found that being a ‘good team player’ or simply focussing on achieving individuals goals does not lead to the success of middle managers.


The power competencies identified in successful middle managers were:

  • Ambition
  • The ability to influence others
  • The ability to manage conflict management
  • The ability to effect change

The study also showed that, not only does displaying these ‘power competencies’ lead to career success amongst middle managers, it also, perhaps counter-intuitively, makes them more popular with their contemporaries.


Professor Guillen says, “What is clear is that, at middle manager level, simply being good at your own job and working well as part of a group is not nearly as effective as exerting some power over your colleagues and working environment. The ability to take control of situations, enforce change and resolve conflict – typically behaviours that you would associate with senior management - are key to getting ahead.”


Guillen adds: “What was perhaps most surprising was that, although many may imagine that exhibiting these behaviours might prove unpopular amongst colleagues, the opposite appeared to be the case. Behaving in a powerful way actually made the middle managers we looked at more popular amongst their co-workers.”


In the study, middle managers filled in a personality questionnaire and undertook a 360 degree assessment to assess what personality traits and behaviour needs to be displayed for them to be successful.


“Middle managers make up over half of the workforce – and yet the majority of research into workforce behaviour tends to focus on either the more senior end of the management spectrum or the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder”, says Guillen. “Motivation typically shapes behaviour, so this research can be used as a powerful guide to the developmental efforts of middle managers and help to contribute towards transparency regarding promotion and reward policies within companies.”


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