Defer or Initiate?: Tips from the MIddle


Many leaders find themselves in the middle of an organization. Depending on your past experiences, this can be a challenging place to operate. You are not the boss, but you also aren’t just taking orders. You are expected to lead the team of people you are responsible for in the right direction, while also being mindful of the guidance and direction set for the organization at the top.

In many organizations, this requires finding a unique balance:

  • When you look to the leadership of the organization, you are expected to defer. Simply, this means not focus on your own preferences, but work toward the goals which have been set for you. This requires less creativity, but can still be challenging if you would prefer to be driving on your own. ┬áThe way you honor and serve those ahead of you in the organization will set an example for your team; watch this carefully.
  • When you look to the members of your team, you are expected to initiate. You will rarely get 100% of the guidance for operating your sphere from the leadership ahead of you. If they had capacity to do that, they wouldn’t need you in the role you’re in. So you must identify strategies, create systems, and lead the team forward. You can’t wait for everything to work out and hand itself to you in a package with a bow. Solving challenges is why you were hired, and that means studying the situation, praying for wisdom, and experimenting with possible solutions in dialogue and in implementation.
In my experience, most people are more comfortable with either defer or initiate. Finding the balance of both in your culture and organization will create room for you to succeed.
A personal note: If you’re like me and prefer to defer, the balance will likely include a lot more initiate than you’re comfortable with. And yet, that’s the adventure!

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