Leading Up – Time To Lead Your Leader

Leading Up - It’s Time To Lead Your Leader

When we think and discuss about leadership, we simply directly assume leading followers.  This is common and mostly true.  However, great leaders should have the ability to lead up.  Great leaders are expected to lead up. Able to lead your leaders bring greater value to yourself, your leader and your organization.  So it’s time for you to lead up and start leading your leader.

Leading up is a concept that’s not new, but few knows about it and even fewer discuss it.  To lead up is to lead your superiors.  It could be your direct leader or even other levels above him or her.  It is not an easy thing to do, and could easily be very intimidating at just the thought of it.  But if you can successfully lead up, you will add much greater value to your superiors and your subordinates.

There are many reasons why you may need to lead your leaders.  Some are good and constructive reasons, and others are just out of pure necessities.  Here are some reasons why it’s time for you to start leading your leaders.

  • Just too busy. We know that our leaders are usually busy juggling many tasks, projects and issues simultaneously.  Our leaders must prioritize focus for the most urgent issue at the moment.  If those issues are not concerning our job functions, we get less attention from our leaders.  Which means we must be more responsible for the work within our domain.
  • Not engaged. Some leaders take the hands off approach and never engages in the day to day operations.  They trust and leave it up to you to navigate your work and your team.  They allow you to take on that leadership role.
  • Need help but just don’t know it. There are leaders who means well.  Who really tries, but completely miss the mark.  Some leaders believe too much in their own abilities.  They don’t incorporate the input of their teams in their decisions.  This mistake causes them to miss out on great ideas that could have made their jobs so much better and easier.
  • Poor leadership. Of course we have to acknowledge the fact that there are bad leaders out there.  Leaders who takes the title but not the responsibilities which comes along with the title.  These leaders needs your help the most, but maybe deserves it the least. 

Regardless of the reasons why your leaders need your help, you have your own reasons why you need to help.  There are very good reasons why you should strive to lead your leaders.  It doesn’t matter if they want it, need it or deserve it.  Below are reasons why it’s in your best interest to start leading your leaders.

  • Career development. Opportunities are only what you make of them.  The opportunity is there for you to add to your contribution.  If you take advantage of the opportunity, your career will advance at a faster rate.  Letting it pass will only delay your advancement.
  • Elevate your own leadership abilities. You can already be a great leader to your team.  Learning to lead up is another skill that will be a great addition to your leadership abilities.  One that you can truly use throughout your career.  Even CEOs have bosses and business owners have investors to answer to.
  • Your work depends on it. No matter how much help and support you receive form your leader, you are still responsible for the work you produce.  If it requires you to provide leadership to your leader in order for you to get your work done, you should do so.
  • The team depends on you. If leadership is lacking, then it’s the opportunity for you to step up and be the leader.  Look no further than yourself.  Prove to your team that you can be the leader for them and you’ll gain the respect of a true leader, regardless of title.
  • No excuses. We discussed in other blogs that leaders don’t make excuses.  And the same applies here for you.  If your leader provides great support and direction, great.  But if you don’t get what you need, then don’t make excuses.  Provide that need to your team and your leader.  That’s how you become a great leader.

You’re ultimately responsible for the success or failure you receive.  Being proactive and providing leadership to your leaders does sound intimidating.  It could also be out right be a scary concept.  But being able to do so will elevate you as a leader and as an individual vastly.  Like leadership, there isn’t one path that works for everyone.  There isn’t a one size fit all solution.  But there are suggestions provide here which you may find helpful in your pursuit to lead your leaders.

  • Start with you. In order to lead others, you must be capable and prepared yourself.  Make sure that your work and quality are in tip top shape.  Producing poor quality and focusing on something else is never the smart thing to do.  So make sure you have your things in order and you’re ready before you lead.  Up or down.
  • Understand that it takes time. Becoming a leader of your own team takes years.  You had to spend time putting in the work to learn the skills and experience.  Expect that it will take time to be able to lead your leader.  There will be new skills to learn.  Not to mention personality quirks of your leader that you must navigate.
  • Do more. In leading others, you’re already doing more.  But you need to do even more than that.  You need to do the things your leaders should be doing and providing them to your leader before being asked.  And it will require you to repeat over and over.  You may not receive any recognition for the extra work.  But that’s what it takes to lead.
  • Build trust and relationship. Leadership is dealing with personalities.  You must build rapport with each follower in order to lead them well.  The same applies when you attempt to lead your leader.  You must build a good relationship with your leader which takes time to do.  Your leader must be able to trust you and go to you in times of needs.  This is done by building direct relationship with your leader.  But it is also done by building trust and relationships with other leaders and associates in the organization.  There’s nothing better than others speaking highly of you.  When your leader can receive praises for you from others, that will go distance in their ability to trust and value you.
  • Don’t push it. Offer help and support to your leader, but understand when it’s not taken.  As they are the leaders, they may be privy to information we don’t have.  So when we offer solutions, they may have ideas as to why our solution doesn’t work.  They may not be able to share it with us, but they do understand the situation better than we do.  So don’t over step your boundaries and push your ideas too much when you sense strong push-back. 

One final though on this is that it may just simply not work out.  Admittedly, there are leaders who are just unable to recognize they need help.  They don’t understand that they have capable people working with them.  Therefore are not open to hearing and receiving support and ideas.  This should not be a deterrent to what you do.  You should still do what you need to do.  What you should do.  Provide the support regardless of whether it’s taken.  Help regardless of whether you receive credit for it.  While your leaders may not appreciate you for it, others will notice.  And others will see the quality leader you are.  And you have already become a better leader for it.

Photo by: You X Ventures

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