lead your boss

As an executive coach, I work with leaders who are adept at managing their teams but struggle to lead their boss. To lead your boss, or “leading up,” is an essential skill that involves subordinating your ego to figure out what your boss wants and how you can help them get to their desired outcome. Leading up can significantly enhance your effectiveness and the overall success of your organization.

You can accomplish everything you want to accomplish. As long as you’re willing to help your boss accomplish what they want to accomplish. – Art Jackson

4 Ways to Lead Your Boss

1. Think Big Picture

Up Leaders have an innate ability to think big picture. They have a huge vision of what the organization could be and understand how their role and their team’s efforts fit into this broader context.

As an Up Leader, when you approach your boss with ideas and suggestions, frame them in terms of the organization’s long-term goals and potential growth.

Instead of saying, “We need more resources for our project,” try saying, “By investing more resources into our project, we can significantly enhance our department’s contribution to the company’s strategic goals.” Once you get your boss’s buy-in, ask them questions about how they’d like the project to align with the strategic plan – challenge them and partner with them to achieve it!

2. Be action-oriented

Yes, even if it means subordinating their ego and not waiting for a pat on the back.

Demonstrate your commitment to the organization’s success by taking initiative and showing that you are willing to put in the hard work without needing constant recognition. This is not to imply that your work will be overlooked, rather, that your dedication will be appreciated.

For example, if a critical project needs extra effort, step up and offer to lead the charge. Your boss will notice your dedication and reliability. This can lead to increased trust and more significant responsibilities in the future.

3. Facilitate the success of your boss and team

When your boss succeeds, the organization benefits, and so do you. Look for opportunities to make your boss’s job easier and to contribute positively to their objectives.

If your boss is struggling with their workload, offer to find a solution to lighten their load appropriate. Being proactive not only supports your boss but positions you as a valuable team player.

4. Be artful and adept

Leading up effectively requires being artful and adept – knowing what to say and when to say it to achieve the desired outcome. Navigate complex situations with finesse, know when to take bold action and when subtlety is best. It’s about having the insight to read situations accurately, the flexibility to adapt strategies as needed, and the eloquence to convey ideas in a compelling manner.

This involves understanding the dynamics of your relationship with your boss and communicating in a way that aligns with their values and goals. When presenting ideas or feedback, frame them in a way that highlights the benefits to the organization.

Instead of saying, “I think we should change this process,” try saying, “It would be great for us as an organization if we could streamline this process to improve efficiency and outcomes.”

Leading your boss is about leveraging skills and qualities to influence and support them effectively. When you help your boss succeed, you can accomplish everything you want to accomplish.

For more information on Up Leadership, visit Leading for an A-Game Performance, and book me for you next presentation.

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Trin Henderson

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