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In order to survive in these turbulent times, organizations need competent, effective, and empowered middle management. Yet those in middle positions commonly report that their jobs are too demanding, stressful, and unrewarding. Leading from the Middle aims at transforming middle positions into the drivers of integrated and effective change in their organization. This workshop supports Middles’ ability to lead more effectively and become key players in organizational change efforts.


Leading from the Middle focuses on the dilemmas, challenges, system power possibilities and contributions of middle positions. The workshop offers Barry Oshry’s classic Top, Middle, Bottom, Customer experiential exercise, highlighting issues essential to successful Middle life:

The Multiple Worlds in which Middles Interact.

Participants will explore the very different “worlds” Middles are called upon to interact with. They discover the pitfalls they need to avoid and the effective strategies they need to follow when interacting with Tops who are overwhelmed by complexity, Bottoms who are feeling oppressed by management, Customers who feel they are being inadequately attended to, and other equally harried Middles.

The Multiple Roles Middles Play.

Participants will also discover the stumbling blocks they face when negotiating the multiple roles they are called on to play: sometimes as Top (when they are responsible for some piece of the action), sometimes as Bottom (when they are on the receiving end of unwanted circumstances), sometimes as Customers (when they are not getting delivery on products or services they need), and sometimes as peers (when unproductive peer relationships are limiting organizational effectiveness).

The Power of Middle Integration.

In addition, they will learn about the power of middle integration: the personal benefits integrating with other Middles provides, the contribution it makes to those they lead, manage, supervise, or coach, as well as to their Tops. And the central role integration plays in organizational success. Participants will discover the issues that regularly prevent Middle integration from developing and how to master them.


Middle managers looking to increase their influence and impact and become drivers of change in their organization.

Executives committed to strengthening their organizations by supporting leadership from the middle.


The purpose of the LEADING FROM THE MIDDLE WORKSHOP is for participants to share an intense interactive activity around human systems dynamics that engages them to examine:

  • How the organization is viewed through the eyes of top executives, middle managers, individual contributors, and customers
  • How they are at times a top, a middle, a bottom, and a customer, and how position influences behavioral choices
  • How Middles become torn and stressed, and how to turn that around
  • How their behaviors impact those around them
  • How Middles reflexively fall into traps that inhibit their ability to integrate across the organization
  • How partnership across boundaries (i.e., levels, functions, departments, organizations) increases productivity and overall satisfaction


Participants get the opportunity to:

  • clarify their roles as leaders at whatever level or position they occupy, with focus on Middle positions
  • identify the issues and dilemmas people at all levels of the organization face, particularly during turbulent times, with emphasis on being in the Middle
  • develop actionable strategies for interacting more effectively with people at all levels, including with internal and external customers
  • discover the total system benefits of Middles integrating with peers and the pathway to making it happen
  • gain valuable insights and skills in a fast-paced, stimulating, and fun learning experience


Participants can expect to come away with:

  • A solid understanding of human systems dynamics – what powerful systems look like, what regularly gets in the way of their developing, and their roles as Middles in creating them
  • A greater recognition of the issues others in the system face, thereby interacting with them in more constructive ways
  • Strategies for developing powerful, productive partnerships up, down and across organizational lines
  • A roadmap for developing a strong network of peers in the middle


For more insights, check out Barry Oshry’s free e-Book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" in which he narrates the pitfalls and opportunities of working in the middle and how understanding can speed up their development as a leader.

Barry Oshry, Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life

Barry Oshry, Leading Systems

Barry Oshry, In The Middle

Barry Oshry, The Possibilities of Organization

Tom Devane and Barry Oshry, Collaborative Organizations: The Organization Workshop

“Context Blindness: What We Don’t See Will Hurt Us” by Barry Oshry in Practicing Organization Development, 3rd edition, 2010.

Click Here to Bring Leading from the Middle to your organization.

Explore it all for FREE.

Understand what’s behind our methodology in our free Organization Workshop e-book. Or get a free sneak peek of a live workshop.

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