Lead Up

How do I lead when I’m not in charge?
How do I lead up?

The biggest myth about leadership: You have to be in charge in order to lead.

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, because your ability to lead up now will help determine your ability to move up later.

Leadership is not positional, it’s personal. Therefore:
Be authentic.
Show honor
Serve those in authority
Work with excellence
Care for others

People will follow a leader with a heart faster than a leader with a title.

Honor matters: Honor publicly results in influence privately. If you want to be over people, you need to learn to be under them. Don’t forget: Respect is earned. Honor is given.
Timing matters: Look at the rhythms of those you serve. Value their time. Schedule a meeting, and keep it short and focused. Have a written agenda. If you are going to lead up, make sure the time is right.
Motives matters: Your only motivation to lead up should be to push the mission forward. 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. Lead up because you want to help your organization win. Don’t just point out problems; bring solutions. Your supervisor would rather hear someone who has potential solutions than hear 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 upward influence. There is a massive difference between thinking critically and being critical.
Initiative matters: Want to gain trust and influence? 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. If you’re willing to do what others won’t do, you will earn influence others don’t have.
Truth matters: 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.

If you are the point leader, you must do everything you can to give opportunities for others within your organization to lead up. Never penalize them for telling the truth. Instead, give them public credit for bringing good ideas, taking initiative, and putting the organization first. Let go, and let others help raise the ceiling of your organization. Saying you don’t care what your team thinks: 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.

What is something specific you can do to increase your personal influence with people in your organization?
What are three things you can do to show honor by serving up?
If you are the point leader, what are three things you can do to give your team specific opportunities to help your organization by sharing their wisdom with you?
What is the best idea you have to make your organization better? Put it on paper. Work
on focusing your idea into one sentence.
How can you lighten your leader’s load?
If you are the point leader, what can you do to give others significant and consistent opportunities to influence you?