Leading Upwards

Updated: Nov 26, 2020


The video states "following the link below to read more"

while recording I kind of forgot that I put the video here on the website too. If you are here, there is no link - just simply read on. I might have had my bun pulled too tight!


Companies are spending less and less money on training their new and middle managers on the ways of true leadership. If they invest in training at all, it's more on the administrative duties and processes or you might get lucky and get a high-level view of people's personalities...but not enough information to know what to do with that insight.

What does this lead to? A startling amount of people in roles where they are responsible for others who don't have the tools or training to be truly effective as a leader. Which means, there will come a time in your career that you will need to lead upwards. This more commonly known as managing up, but that has such a negative connotation. Well, to me it does. It rings of manipulating your boss to get what you want. So, I'd prefer to use the words "Leading Up".

I understand where managing up has come from. There are probably some of you who feel that your boss isn't as smart as you or doesn't have as much value as you do...but I find that a bit insulting. I am a huge believer in teams filling gaps, meaning we all have strengths and weaknesses and as a team, if you recognize and fully accept that everyone has these, then you win as a team.

Leading Up means that you might need to fill some gaps.

So, what are some real reasons why you may need to Lead Up?

  1. It's a win/win for you both. You both will achieve success in reaching the outcomes you desire and potentially receive recognition for those outcomes.

  2. Your boss truly needs your help in order to do their job. I'm going to ask you to look at this statement honestly. How much strength does that take for your boss to be transparent with regard to their gaps? If you view this as a weakness or that you are smarter and can do their job better, you are sadly mistaken.

  3. You need your boss's support to accomplish your goals or to simply be effective in your own role.

The following are some steps to take in order to lead upwards:

Understand their Role - You have been hired to complete a specific function (maybe two). However, your boss's role is very different so in order to build a relationship, you must understand what they were hired to do. This means you need to look at things from their perspective, not yours. They have many people to consider, many functions of the role to deliver, and a different kind of pressure and focus than you have. They also have their own personal goals. Look at things honestly from their perspective and the rest of the steps will just fall into place.

Be a Solution - Anticipate their needs. If you know of something important that is upcoming, ask how you can assist or provide detail that they may need to support them. Also, if you know of some areas where gaps can be filled that aren't being utilized by you or any of your other peers, make suggestions. They may really be struggling with a gap in their team and not even know that someone right in front of them has the talent to be the solution.

Be Transparent - If you know something bad is coming down the pike, don't let them be surprised by it. Even if you think they can't help, let them know so they can either ease the blow or potentially help resolve the problem before it becomes an issue.

Build the Relationship - All of the above will help in building the relationship, but you really need to make it a focus. And it must be done in a meaningful way, where you show mutual respect and you don't waste their time on trivial things just to be next to them. Take your relationship seriously. That's not to say you can't smile, tell a joke or have fun...it just means don't do silly things that have no value in building the relationship.

Speak Kindly - This is to say that even if you have a difficult boss, don't stoop to less than desired behavior. Be kind and show a bit of understanding or empathy. Keep your conversation valuable and communicate well. Also, don't say anything behind the boss's back that you wouldn't say to their face. That should be a given, but common sense doesn't always equal common practice.

Lead with Greatness! -Renata