“Managing from the Middle”…oh…wait…no…I meant “Leading from the Middle”

Yesterday I learned that the Basic Skills Committee at Fresno City College (where I teach) will be paying for my tuition at the Leading from the Middle Academy—an initiative of the RP Group (i.e., Research & Planning Group for California Community Colleges). I’m pleased I was offered this chance to attend the Academy & learn some skills that will (hopefully) take me & my college to a higher level of success.

So I spent a little time today studying the phrase “leading from the middle” in order to get a better sense for what it entails.

I’m not a leader in the traditional sense of being an administrator or a chair of a faculty, staff, or student committee. But I do know that leading from the middle involves skills that will help me lead from my position as a faculty member (from the “middle” levels of the educational bureaucracy).

As I searched online for the phrase (and especially within educational contexts) I sensed there are two ways the word “lead” (or “leader” or “leadership”) get used.

One way is epitomized here: leading means understanding budgets, politics, human resources & labor relations. To me that’s “management” not “leadership”. All that stuff is the reason I’m not interested in being an administrator.

A different way is the stuff I think I’ll learn at the Academy: leading means being a change agent, leading means deploying people skills to get things done. That is the reason I can be (and want to be) a leader while being a faculty member. Heck, maybe I can be a leader because I’m an instructor.

(In fact, all this talk kinda reminds me of why the word “teacherpreneur” excites me: it’s a way to describe a person who is simultaneously a teacher & a leader-entrepreneur.)

Someday I’ll have to thank two of my colleagues, Ray & Mindy, who sat with me on the covered patio of a coffee shop in San Mateo on a sunny but cool afternoon & helped me understand this distinction between leading & managing and how I fit into that dichotomy. But that, you might agree, would be a good story for another blog post.

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