How To Lead Upward

If you’re leading in an organization, there’s a good chance you’re not the top dog. Even then, you still have someone to answer to. This is why every leader needs to know how to lead upward.

Leading upward is all about helping your boss or leader become better. They play a part in your development. You can play a part in theirs.

Man standing on yellow line in road

Photo by Komal Brar

Leading upward can be difficult. Scary even. It’s hard to look at your leader and think of ways to lead them.

The good news is that you can lead your leaders. The way you lead others looks different than the way they lead you or the way you may lead others.

How To Lead Upward

John Maxwell suggests you lead upward by becoming a go-to player. To become a go-to player, you need to perform your tasks with excellence and integrity. You have to be a person your leader wants to go to when he needs someone to step in during his absence.

Michael Useem mentions you may need to offer up a strategic insight or plan to help your organization enter into a new market. By offering valuable insights, you help your leader look good and the business improves.

Beverly Jones suggests you build an area of expertise. You can lead upward by being the go-to person for a specific area of knowledge. Your expertise will become valued and you can lead upward through sharing your insights with those who lead you.

I suggest you share nuggets of wisdom you’ve discovered while leading your department or through your personal development. When you can go to your leader and tell them “Matt, I read this article from Randy Conley. Here’s what I learned from the article – “Love is a powerful tool to a leader. I think you do a great job with it already but it’s something we might want to dig into more as an organization. Matt Tenney’s thoughts really fleshed out the idea. Check it out.”

How Leading Upward Impacts You

Leading upward benefits your leader, yes… Leading upward also impacts someone else. YOU!

When you lead upward, you show initiative. You show you want to grow and help others grow with you.

Leaders of organizations love to see this. They love to know their team members aren’t content with their current position. They love to know their team members are looking for upward movement as well.

Another benefit is you continue to grow yourself and your influence.

By taking a chance and talking with your leader about what you’re learning, you open yourself up to be used by your leader. Your leader may not know what you are learning or what you’re doing outside of work. By sharing with your leader that you blog, you attended the Catalyst Leadership Conference, or how you took an online course and the benefits you’ve seen from these actions, your leader will ask you to take on more responsibility. More responsibility means more upward movement.

Leading upward impacts you because you help the organization improve. Leading upward impacts you because your leader improves. And leading upward impacts you because it gives you a chance to share what you know with the rest of your team.

Step out of your comfort zone. Share with your leaders what you’re seeing and learning.

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