Mary Barra of GM, Ginni Rometty of IBM and Ursula Burns of Xerox are innovative women leaders who all managed to successfully navigate their careers into the elusive corporate CEO job, as only a measly 5.2% of women have done. Others, such as Marissa Meyer, former CEO of Yahoo! and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, were recruited into the C-suite from a different company altogether. Remember that they, like all of us, were middle managers at some point, yet they moved up and up, unlike most women who get stuck in mid-level roles.

Middle management is tough for everyone. It’s where the work gets done, while the top rungs give the orders to do it. Though it defines a large swath of the talent pool, middle managers tend to have the least amount of resources, authority and influence, and yet most of the tactical responsibility. As Benham Tabrizi of Stanford University wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Over the past 20 years, no group has endured greater pain and humiliation within organizations than mid-level managers (MLMs — managers from two levels below the CEO down to the line managers)….(Yet) Aside from the role of the senior executives, the most important determinant of success was the role of MLMs.”

 

This blog first appeared on Forbes.