Leading Up


An editorial note:  an AOL spam filter refused RFL to 1300 readers last week.  Please mark me as a “safe sender.”

Two weeks ago I wrote about a question raised by a caller to the Winner’s Circle, my Saturday morning radio show (streaming live from 7-9 AM on Saturdays).  The gentleman, an upper level manager in a business that was going through a change in management, was looking for advice about his situation: rumors flying, people unfocused, uncertainty abounding. My colleagues on the radio talked about the importance that he communicate as much as he can.

But could he do anything about the organization as a whole?  Is there anything you can do when the higher-ups aren’t talking?  I received a similar question in an email from a State of Michigan manager, who was suffering from a lack of information that would be so helpful to him and his team in their work. These pleas for information are, of course, examples of a broader question:  How do you lead up?  What do you do when people above you really don’t seem to see, or care about, something that seems so obviously important?  Isn’t this last question a huge part of our lives at work, and our frustrations.  It’s a ubiquitous question, for we were frustrated with how our parents and teachers “didn’t get it,” and now how politicians, and bosses, just don’t see what’s so obvious to us?

Enough questions.  Here are some answers:

1.     Don’t quit on your desire to have the authorities see what you believe is important.  If you don’t speak up, you’ll never be led well.  And to do that . . . you have to put yourself in the authority’s shoes.  You have to make your case, but by seeing their world:

2.     Make your point based on the values you know matter to them.  They might value profit, respect, excellence, or any number of other things.  In our callers’ case, you can bet the owners – new and old – care about the productivity of the company.  Understanding that productivity was suffering from all the misinformation, would matter to them.  Much as we complain about authorities, they have values.  We need to see them and speak to them.

3.     Make your point based on realities you see.  Often we assume that the authorities see what we see.  They don’t.  They’re in the “corner office,” they’re in the middle of things.  One gift we can give is data.  And people like gifts.  So speak to them about what is concretely happening.  And, of course, connect it to values – to what they want to happen.

4.     Be ready with solutions.  Concrete.  Practical.  Thought out.

What do you think?  Why not share some stories of success you’ve had leading up at my blog on this topic.  Some of the best Reading for Leading is found there by those who

Lead with their best self!



**Traditionally, March has been known around the nation as Reading Month.  As RfL focuses so much on “reading and leading” at home and in the workplace, I wanted to encourage you to both write on my blogsite and read some of the great comments there.  In the next three weeks, I’ll be reading the blog entries.  I’ll pick the best entries and offer the authors a choice of a number of interesting leadership books that are on my shelf.  Please remember to include your email address on your comment so we may contact you to get your preferences and shipping information!