The word “middle” instills a multitude of reactions and connotations, all of which seem to lack shine. Think about it:
The Middle Child: there is an actual syndrome identified with this position in a family – The Middle Child Syndrome refers to a child possessing feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, jealousy and exclusion.
Middle School: the point in a child’s life where you become too old for elementary school but too young for high school. This results in a period of 2-3 years of separation from both educational institutions where immaturity and hormones rule and common-sense goes through a drought.
“Being Caught in the Middle”: a phrase used when we find ourselves between two (or more) opposing sides. This can be a highly stressful and uncomfortable position.
With such negative associations, why would I focus on the middle? Because while some view the middle as a mediocre state of being, I see it as an opportunity.
My view of life has been largely from the middle and I feel blessed to say that. I am not living the high life on private jets and islands, but I am also not going to bed hungry each night and wondering how I will feed my family. Or if I am safe.
I was born and raised in a small town in the Mid-West and I have always been proud of where I hail. While I no longer live in that small town, I do hold true to the values instilled during my childhood. Hard work. Pride. Honesty. Integrity. Acceptance. Loyalty. Faith.
I have held Middle Management positions throughout my career. While there was a time when I longed to rise in the ranks, that desire left me long ago. I discovered the price of Senior Leadership and I was not willing to pay it. The sacrifices, for me, outweighed the rewards.
The middle has afforded me an ideal vantage point. I find that I can associate with a variety of people, positions and places. I have worked alongside top leaders and entry level employees. I have lived in big cities and small towns. I have struggled to pay my bills and I have had money to give away. I have been sick, and I have been healthy. The middle offers the ability to see both sides clearly. This is a quality critical to good leadership.
Do you have a leader that simply “gets it”? By that, I mean they understand even if they are not in the daily trenches or traveling your exact path. They empathize and offer support. How amazing does that feel?
As human beings, we seek to be understood. We find comfort and safety in knowing that another hears and acknowledges our words and feelings. They may not have been there, done that, but they are willing to wear the T-shirt in support.
The best leaders are those that get it. They take the time to listen, validate and care. These are the people we seek in vulnerable times without fear of retaliation or judgement. These are the people we seek for guidance and assurance. These are the people we are willing to follow because we see ourselves (or who we aspire to be) in them.
If you find yourself in the middle, consider yourself lucky. You have the opportunity to comprehend various aspects and that is a gift. Being relatable is an attribute many lack.
And just to clarify, statistically the middle child is likely to be more successful as they become independent earlier in life, tend to take more risks and are team players. Middle schools aid in social and communicative development which promotes higher learning success and typically the food is better than elementary school!
From what I hear, it can be lonely at the top and isolating at the bottom. The middle suits me.
What is your view? Let me know in the comments!