Leading from the middle

I had lunch recently with an executive who left a very successful company after helping them grow both the top and bottom line.  I asked him why he left and he said, “It’s so hard to lead from the middle.”  He went on to explain that though he liked the president of the company as a person, the lack of direction was more than he could tolerate.

This story illustrates why great people often leave companies who need them.  I’ve heard the same idea described in different ways.  For instance, another senior person who left a great company said “I just didn’t see a future I could get excited about.”I know that many CEOs are very concerned with the viability of their business.  They are trying to stem the bleeding, right-size their headcount, and assess their markets.  But their employees are still looking for signs of who the company is and where it is going in order to decide if they want to stay.  Especially the best employees.

I was talking with another very talented guy yesterday, Joey Reiman.  He has a clip on his website that talks about how if you’re not being nurtured, you’re being abused (you’ll have to click on a firefly to see the video). “Abuse is no words; a wall of silence is abuse,” Joey says.  Now I don’t know if this executive felt as though he was being abused, but I do know he is talking to investment bankers about the possibility of buying the very company that he left!  How’s that for talent?

Think about your company.  Where are you going?  Have you talked about it lately?  How connected do your best and brightest feel to what you stand for?

 

 

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