The Spark Group Asia | Malaysia's No 1 Training Provider

“In lean times they can help you thrive—if you reimagine their roles”

Middle-level managers are the growth catalysts every company needs. Their pivotal role in translating strategic vision into actionable plans, fostering innovation, and ensuring operational efficiency makes them the linchpin for success.

Whether in an SME or a large corporation, their focused dedication is the driving force behind sustained growth. And yet, there is still a significant gap in the organization’s focus on the growth of their middle-level managers.

MPC National Productivity Report 2023 | The Spark Group Asia

Here are some reasons why organizations might overlook developing their middle level managers:

  • Misunderstood Importance:

Companies often prioritize immediate profits over long-term investments in employee development. Middle manager development initiatives, with their delayed returns, can seem less pressing than addressing immediate concerns.

Some leaders mischaracterize middle managers as simply “cogs in the machine” rather than crucial influencers of employee engagement, productivity, and innovation. This leads to neglecting their growth and development needs.

  • Challenges in Implementation:

Investing in training, coaching, and development programs for a large number of middle managers can be expensive, deterring some companies.

Designing and implementing effective development programs for geographically dispersed or busy middle managers can be challenging. 

Quantifying the return on investment from middle manager development initiatives can be difficult, making it harder to justify them to stakeholders. 

  • Traditional Mindsets: 

Some companies cling to outdated hierarchical structures where leadership development focuses solely on the top levels, overlooking the potential of empowered and skilled middle managers.

Implementing new development programs can disrupt existing routines and power dynamics, leading to resistance from some within the organization. This is especially apparent in organizations that have older “legacy” managers, from 1st generation to 2nd generation handovers. 

  • Competition for Resources:

In a competitive talent market, companies often prioritize attracting and retaining high-performing entry-level employees or senior leaders, leaving middle manager development resources stretched thin.

Other initiatives like technological upgrades or process improvements can compete for budget and attention, further marginalizing middle manager development.

It’s important to note that not all companies neglect their middle managers. Some organizations recognize the critical role they play and invest heavily in their growth and development. These companies often reap significant benefits in terms of employee engagement, productivity, and innovation.


By understanding the reasons behind the underinvestment, companies can start to address the issue and develop strategies to foster the growth and development of their middle managers, reaping the benefits of a more engaged and effective workforce.

How do Middle Managers Support Growth | The Spark Group Asia

Source: “How the Role of Middle-Managers Is Changing” (LinkedIn, 2023);  “The Real Value of Middle Managers” (HBR, 2021); World Economic Forum: “Why We Need to Give More Power to Middle Managers” (latest update)

  • Bridge Between senior leadership teams and front-line employees

Middle managers translate vision and strategy from above into actionable plans for their teams. They communicate effectively in both directions, ensuring alignment and understanding across all levels.

They have close contact with individual employees, recognizing their strengths and developmental needs. They play a key role in talent identification, coaching, and mentoring future leaders.

  • Driving Innovation & Change

Middle managers can empower their teams to experiment, take risks, and generate new ideas. They can foster a culture of creativity and collaboration, leading to improved processes and solutions.

They act as agile change agents, implementing new initiatives and strategies within their teams. They can navigate ambiguity and adjust quickly to shifting market demands or organizational priorities.

  • Boosting employee morale and engagement

Middle managers directly impact employee satisfaction and motivation. They build trust, provide regular feedback, and create a positive work environment. This leads to higher engagement, productivity, and reduced turnover.

They act as the voice of their teams to senior leadership, communicating concerns, challenges, and needs. They ensure fair treatment and address grievances, fostering a sense of belonging and value within their teams.

  • Culture Guardians & Drivers

Middle managers set the tone for their teams, exemplifying the organization’s values and culture through their behavior and decisions. They build a strong sense of team identity and shared purpose.

They are often the first to recognize and address cultural problems within their teams, such as silos, conflicts, or communication breakdowns.

  • Early Warning System

Middle managers have their fingers on the pulse of their teams and departments. They can identify early warning signs of issues like declining morale, performance problems, or potential safety hazards.

They act as a conduit of information, communicating issues and concerns upwards before they escalate. This allows senior leadership to make informed decisions and address problems proactively.


Organizations that recognize and support these critical roles of middle managers are more likely to achieve success. By investing in their development, providing them with the tools and resources they need, and empowering them to lead effectively, companies can unlock the full potential of their workforce and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment.


The Spark Group Asia is the leading Leadership & Executive Coaching Organization in Asia, based out of the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. 

At Spark Group Asia, we pioneer powerful coaching programs that redefine leadership excellence. Our measurable and highly accountable approach ensures tangible results for companies investing in their middle-level managers. Backed by a track record of success, we empower your teams to thrive. Experience transformative growth with our proven methodologies. 

Explore the impact at www.thesparkgroup.asia , where innovation meets measurable success.

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