This is Part 2 of notes from my training class at GiANT IMPACT in Atlanta, GA yesterday. Click here to catch up on Part 1: 360 Degree Leadership Part 1

Today we will look at the art of leading up in your organization. This will reveal skills needed to lead your boss or other leaders in your organization that are in positions of authority higher than your level in the organization.

Lead Up

To many people leading up in their organization is the biggest challenge they face on a regular basis and a skill that is not often taught or even discussed in most organizations today. Most leaders want to lead, not be led.

John Maxwell advises us that in order to lead your leader you must take the approach of adding value to your leader. He states that most leaders do want to have value added to them and this is your pathway into leading your leader.

The Four Critical Aspects to Leading Up

  1. Lighten Your Leaders Load
  2. Understand Your Leader’s Rules
  3. Invest in Relational Chemistry
  4. Know When to Push and when to Back Down

Let’s examine each of these critical areas.

1. Lighten Your Leaders Load: You are either doing one of two things for your leader now: 1) You are making your leader’s load lighter 2) You are making your leader’s load heavier.

Which do you think your leader prefer you being doing today?

7 Keys to Lighten Your Leader’s Load

  1. Do your own job well.
  2. When you find a problem, find a solution.
  3. Tell leaders what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
  4. Go the second mile.
  5. Stand up for your leader whenever you can.
  6. Stand in for your leader whenever you can.
  7. Ask your leader how you can lift the load.

Nearly every time I finish a conversation with my boss I ask the following question:

“Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

This simple question is often a catalyst for a conversation on how I might lighten my leader’s load and add value to him. I think this question has enabled me to tune in more accurately to his needs and desires that I need to be addressing on a regular basis. Taking this small bit of initiative enables me to better serve my leader and opens doors to leading my leader in the process.

Ask yourself these probing questions about your leader:

  • What pressing load is weighing on your leader?
  • What specific things can you do to take something off your leader’s plate?
  • What other things do you feel you could do for your leader to lighten his load but would need his blessing in order to carry it out?

2. Understand Your Leaders Rules: All organizations have rules, some written, some unwritten. In order to be an influential 360 degree leader you must develop a clear understanding of both the organization’s rules and your leader’s rules.

The bottom line is you must know what is and is not important to your leader in order to serve them well.

Here is a list we were given to inquire of our leader’s about their rules. We were challenged to have our leaders pick their top five rules from the below list:

  • Ask questions when you don’t understand
  • Follow through on commitments
  • Remember that I have responsibilities
  • Don’t make excuses; get the job done
  • Remember that I am human.
  • Be considerate of my time.
  • Be willing to try new things.
  • Listen to me.
  • Be open and honest.
  • Trust me.
  • Don’t make me look bad.
  • Everyone has to pay their dues.
  • Bring any problems you have with me to me.
  • Show appreciation for what the company and I do for you.
  • Make sure you think things through.
  • Bring important things to my attention quickly.
  • Take responsibility.
  • Be there when I need you.
  • Perform at your full potential.
  • Say “thank you.”
  • Work together as a team.
  • Be loyal.
  • Put in your time. Don’t watch the clock.
  • Don’t be late.

This might be a good exercise for you to go through with your leader so that you make sure you are both on the same page with expectations surrounding your working relationship.

3. Invest in Relational Chemistry: All good leadership is based on relationships. If you can learn how to adapt to your leader’s personality while still maintaining your own style, personal style and integrity then you will be able to lead up much more effectively.

5 Key Areas to Relational Chemistry

1. Heartbeat: These are the things your leader cares about on an emotional level.

2. Priorities: This list will be the thing your leader must do in order to be successful in their job. This list could be called a do or die list more appropriately. I like to call these type of activities the glass balls because they can’t be dropped, if they are they are broken and can’t be repaired. You must choose instead to drop lead balls that make noise when dropped but don’t break and therefore can be picked up later. What are your leader’s glass balls?

3. Enthusiasm: These are things your leader can spend hours talking about and never grow tired. These things energize your leader and create a passion to take some type of action.

4. Vision: This is the dreams of the future your leader has for the organization and himself and where it will go in the days and years ahead. Do you know your leader’s vision?

5. Personality and other traits: This is the manner in which your leader thinks, acts and processes information. In other words, how does your leader operate on a day-to-day basis? How does he process the information you communicate with him best? Orally? Written? Visually? or a combination of these? It helps to understand how he processes the information you bring to him so you can serve it to him in a way that best accommodates his strength zones in these key areas.

4. Know when to Push your Leader and When to Back Down: In order to effectively lead up each leader must develop a clear understanding of this often over looked skill set. You have to have the wisdom to know when and when not to speak up to your leader. If you have a great idea but deliver it at the wrong time it may never see the light of day.

There will also be times when a leader must speak up even when the timing is not the best. It takes wisdom and discernment to know when such times are indeed in front of you and at those times you must act in the best interest of your leader and the organization.

When to Push?

  • What do I know that my boss doesn’t know but needs to?
  • Is time running out?
  • Are my own responsibilities at risk?
  • Can I help my boss win?

When to Back Down?

  • Am I promoting my own personal agenda?
  • Is the timing right only for me?
  • Must everyone but me take the risk?
  • Does my request exceed our relationship?

I would challenge you to process this information and apply it to your relationship with your leader as appropriate. Use some of these suggestions as a catalyst to gain a better understanding of your leader and improve your effectiveness with him.

Remember what John says, ” the best way to lead your leader is to first add value to your leader!”

Have you added value to your leader today?

  1. Jorge Rosado says:

    Hello Mark… I’m Jorge from Puerto Rico. I have followed your blog few months ago. I enjoyed the training too. Thank for the tips… πŸ™‚

  2. ι—œι΅ε­—ζŽ’ε says:

    I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful …

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