Leading from the Middle

4 credit hours

MBA programs spend a great deal of time talking about and learning how senior leaders in the organization make decisions (both financial and strategic). This is a great and needed focus. But, rarely does one start out at the top. In fact, most MBA students will graduate and be placed right in the middle of the organization (either as an individual contributor or as a manager of others). The ability to effectively understand larger organizational dynamics and “get things done” in the middle – managing and aligning multiple stakeholders to make good decisions and implement these decisions without drama – is key to rising to the top.

In other words, leading from (in) the middle is about “getting things done” (i.e. implementing decisions and initiatives) within the broader organizational context. In order to do this, it is critical to understand how organizations do “their work” so that you know how to effectively engage various systems and people to accomplish “your work.” This course is about how things get done within organizations and how you can improve your ability to get things done as a middle manager.
Broadly defined, organizations do “their work” using a combination of formal and informal processes or systems:

  • The formal organizational structure which divides the work into jobs, teams, departments, units; attaches metrics/incentives of success to the different component tasks; manages the interface and coordination of these components; puts in place supporting systems such as information technology, etc.
  • The informal system of comprised of a common vision, organizational culture (and subcultures) and the use of informal influence and power where individuals use their knowledge of the formal structure and culture to build networks, coalitions, allies and so forth to successfully implement decisions and strategic initiatives.

This course is designed to help you understand the broader organizational context in which you are operating and the influence of this context on decision making, networks, and power and influence. The course is designed to have a mix of teaching methodologies including behavioral simulations/exercises, computer based simulations, cases, (some) lecture, and an ongoing integration of your experiences into the classroom.

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