Author Profile Picture

Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

Read more about Jamie Lawrence

Research: Middle managers should display power to get ahead – and be liked


Middle managers should behave ‘powerfully’ to get ahead.

That’s according to new research from Professor Laura Guillen at the ESMT business school in Germany.

Guillen found that displaying certain ‘power competencies’ also serves to make middle managers better liked in the office.

Being a ‘good team player’ or focussing on achieving individual goals did not lead to success for middle managers, said the research.

The power competencies that middle managers should display were identified as:

  • Ambition
  • The ability to influence others
  • The ability to manage conflict management
  • The ability to effect change

Professor Guillen said: “The ability to take control of situations, enforce change and resolve conflict – typically behaviours that you would associate with senior management – are key to getting ahead.”

She added: “What was perhaps most surprising was that, although many may imagine that exhibiting these behaviours might prove unpopular amongst colleagues, the opposite appeared to be the case. Behaving in a powerful way actually made the middle managers we looked at more popular amongst their co-workers.”

The study consisted of middle managers filling in personality questionnaires and undertaking a 360 degree assessment to assess what personality traits and behaviours need to be displayed for them to succeed.

In total 223 middle managers were surveyed – 110 men, 110 women, three who didn’t want to reveal their gender – from three mid-sized Spanish public companies. 

Small size, but interesting nonetheless.

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.