The Mid-Level Manager’s Lesser Engaged Leadership Behavior: Influencing Upwardly

Mid-level managers are the organization's connectors, facilitating bridge-building between senior management and frontline employees. 

These managers are often seen as the glue to ensure business operations run with minimal glitches. Mid-level managers translate and convey strategic goals, policies, and decisions from senior management, implement organizational strategy at the operational level, and develop and execute plans to link strategic objectives and operational execution. 

Facilitators of organizational change, such as new policies, technologies, and structures, these managers provide clear direction, communicate change benefits, manage the transition process, and monitor and manage change impacts. They identify potential risks at the operational level and develop mitigation strategies.

By nature, mid-level managers are people leaders. They create an environment that motivates and engages employees. They also oversee employee performance, providing coaching, feedback, training, and other support to ensure high productivity and employee engagement.

Even with this broad-scope talent, mid-level managers have a lesser-engaged behavioral skill that could shift their impact trajectory and elevate the business’ performance, productivity, and profitability.

Why Influencing Upwardly Matters

According to a McKinsey & Company global survey of middle managers in 2022,  managers spend almost 50% of their time on nonmanagerial duties – administrative and individual contributor work- compared to 23% of their working time on “Strategy-Focused Work.”

While applauded for operational excellence, a mid-level manager's lesser-engaged yet crucial skill is influencing upwardly, a leadership behavior essential to strategy-focused work. The ability to upwardly influence signals a bent for strategic thinking, fuels credibility, and bolsters confidence.

Mid-level managers who influence upwardly demonstrate strategic prowess from their seats, regardless of their level in the organization’s hierarchical structure. With first-hand insight into what works and does not work, mid-level managers can innovate, present ideas, and share perspectives with senior management while demonstrating business and personal mindfulness. In doing so, these managers recognize they have a voice and strategically use it to create win-win outcomes.

Three Influencing Upwardly Strategies

Build Networks, Credibility, and Trust. Build relationships with key influencers and stakeholders within the organization. Be prepared, present, and willing to network at company events. Seek mentorship and engage in cross-departmental projects. Also, a reliable and competent track record is needed to gain senior management’s trust. When there is a pattern of consistently delivering on promises and successfully managing projects, it establishes a springboard to seek sponsorship. That is, having someone speak up on your behalf and champion your impact and contributions when you are not in the room.

See Beyond Your Current Seat. Demonstrate an understanding of senior management’s perspectives, challenges, and pressures. Tailor communications to address their concerns and show empathy for their position. Use clear, concise, and confident communication to convey messages effectively.

Pitch a Project with Business Clarity. When pitching a project, align your proposal with the company’s strategic objectives and senior management’s priorities. Show how a new project will contribute to the organization’s vision and long-term goals. Present well-researched, data-backed information, including detailed reports, metrics, and analysis, to support your ideas and demonstrate the potential positive impacts on the business.  

Action Path

Want help supporting your mid-level managers in developing their influencing upwardly leadership behavior?

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A Better Way: Lead with Influence and Impact

Systems Thinking: Elevating Your Strategic Perspective

Elevate Visionary Leadership in Your Current Seat


Field, E., Hancock, B., Mugayar-Baldocchi, M., &  Schaninger, B. (2023). Stop wasting your most precious resources: Middle managers.McKinsey & Company. Retrieved June 3, 2024 from

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.