Leaders today face the challenge of influencing people from all sides of an organization. John C. Maxwell, In his book 360 Degree Leader, explained the principles using which how middle managers leverage their unique positions and become 360-degree leaders by exercising influence in all directions–> lead up(to the boss), –> lead across(among their peers), –> and lead down(to those they lead) in addition to lead self (self-leadership).
In this article, I would like to focus on the concept of Leading Up. According to John C. Maxwell to attain leading up mindset, first, we need to come out of the below myths #
- I can’t lead if I am not at the top
- When I get to the top, then I will learn to lead
- If I were on the top, then people would follow me
- When I get to the top, I will be in control
- When I get to the top, I will no longer be limited
- I can’t reach my potential if I am not the top leader
- If I can’t get to the top, then I won’t try to lead
Lead yourself :
In order to lead up first, you need to lead yourself exceptionally well. Lead yourself. That’s where it all starts. Besides, if you wouldn’t follow yourself, why should anyone else? Once you start doing it you would soon realize that this will be one of your greatest challenges. If you lead yourself well, then you will earn the right to lead others.
Lighten your leader’s load :
Leading up is the process of influencing a leader. This process includes lightening the leader’s load by being willing to do what others won’t while knowing when to push forward and when to back off.
Many managers with leadership responsibilities feel that because they are not the main leader, that they cannot influence their bosses. One of the most commonly asked questions is: How do I lead when I’m not in charge? You do not have to be in charge in order to lead. It’s the biggest myth about leadership. If you’re on the front lines, you see things others don’t—you have a unique perspective. You have ideas that could make a big difference. You are thinking of solutions to problems some people don’t even know exist. Leading up will not only help your organization, but it will eventually help you.
You can think of lightening your leaders load by means of doing the following:
- Do your own job well first
- When you find a problem, if possible provide a solution
- Tell leader what they NEED to hear, not what they WANT to hear
- Go the second mile
- Stand up for your leader whenever you can
- Always go the extra mile
- Always show in spite of attitude rather than instead of attitude
- Ask your leader how you can lift the load.
Your ability to lead up NOW will help determine your ability to move up LATER. It doesn’t matter which position you are currently in the organization, leading up will open doors for more influence in your organization in the future. Organizations won’t excel without honest upward communication. Lighten your leader’s load. Find something that needs to be done and do it. The best team members don’t need to be told what to do because they intuitively find important things to do.
Honor your leaders:
Leading up can be risky. If you lead in the wrong way, you can get some negative labels and lose personal power. Honour your leaders publically results in getting an opportunity to influence them privately. If you want to be over people, you need to learn to be under them.
If you don’t feel a sense of honour for the person who is above you, they are going to sense it through you. One day, If you want to be OVER others, then you need to learn to be UNDER others and show honour from where you are now. Well, you may say that my leader is not amazing and if I work for a great leader it is easy for me to show honour. Please don’t get confused between honour and respect. Respect is earned. Honour is given. We simply honour those in authority over us. You should accept that they are in that position because they are supposed to be there. Therefore show your influence by serving them and helping them rather than being critical about them all the time. Still, if you feel like you can’t honour your boss then it’s better if you consider doing everyone a favour by going somewhere else where you can show honour. Here is what I know, without honouring UP we can’t lead UP.
Value Leaders Time:
If you are going to lead up, make sure the time is right. Value their time. Schedule a meeting, and keep it short and focused. Have a written agenda. If you’re leading up, it shouldn’t be to make yourself look better, or to be a hero, or to make someone else look stupid. Your only motivation to lead up should be to push the mission forward. Some leaders are moody. You can’t change who someone is. Be aware of your leader’s mood and then go on with your day like normal. The best thing you can do for your leader’s mood is to act as you normally do. Be the consistent force they can rely on. Don’t let your leader’s mood affect you. You have no idea what they are dealing with after hours.
Don’t just point out problems; bring solutions. Your leader would rather hear someone who has potential solutions than hearing about problems. Even if your idea isn’t perfect, it often evolves to a better solution. If you have only a critical spirit, you’ll never have an upward influence.
Always be honest and think critically :
Always remember that there is a world of difference between thinking critically and being critical. If you’re a yes-man, you will lose credibility. Truth always trumps flattery. The more successful you become, the more difficult it is to find people who will tell you the truth. Those who care enough to tell you the truth are incredibly valuable. Tell leader what they NEED to hear, not what they WANT to hear
As a leader, we must do everything we can to give opportunities for others within our organization to allow them to lead up. We should never penalize them for telling the truth. Instead, give them public credit for bringing good ideas, taking initiative, and putting the organization first. Saying you don’t care what your team thinks is unacceptable! If you say you don’t care what your team thinks, either you have the wrong people or you are the wrong leader. Change the people around you or change your mindset. If you don’t listen to them, you will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.
Always remember you don’t go into an opportunity, you GROW into an opportunity. Good leaders in the middle make better leaders at the top.
- 360 Degree Leader – John C. Maxwell
- Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast
- The Art of Managing Your Boss Podcast – Wharton University