Lead Your Boss

The Subtle Art of Managing Up

 Lead Your Boss

Author: John Baldoni
Pub Date: October 2009
Print Edition: $18.95
Print ISBN: 9780814439005
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814415061

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"Leaders are almost by definition people who change


--Howard Gardner, Leading Minds

Your organization needs a strategic resource allocation plan.With

budgets being squeezed and headcount being trimmed, you need

direction on what projects you should pursue and within what

timeframes. You have discussed this many times with your boss,

but for some reason that you do not understand, she has not acted.

So what do you do?

You take action. You take the lead for your boss. You develop

the plan on your own and submit it to her for approval.And if she

approves it, you ask for permission to move it forward. In doing

so, you are filling the leadership void through prompt and decisive

action. You are demonstrating what it takes to lead your boss.

But, as you will discover in this book,“leading your boss” is really

a metaphor for leading from the middle. Those who lead from

the middle are those who think big picture and can do what it

takes to get things done so their bosses and their teams succeed.

Very often such individuals lead their bosses, but they may also be

leading their boss’s boss as well as their own colleagues and direct

reports. Those who succeed at leading from the middle also are

artful and adept managers; they utilize their management skills to

establish goals, plan projects, organize people, and execute projects

on time and on budget.

Not so easy to do, but it is possible when you rethink and reframe

what you want to accomplish and how you want to do it.

That is, you are not acting for yourself, but you are acting for the

good of the organization. This requires initiative, persuasion, influence,

and persistence and no small amount of passion. Taken

together this is what experts call “leading up.”

* * *

“Leading up requires great courage and determination,” writes

Michael Useem, a professor at the Wharton School at the University

of Pennsylvania and author of an eponymously named book

that popularized the concept. “We might fear how our superior

will respond, we might doubt our right to lead up, but we all carry

a responsibility to do what we can when it will make a difference.”

Individuals who lead up are those who demonstrate that they

are aware of the bigger picture and are ready, willing, and able to

do what needs to be done for the good of the team. Such individuals

prove their mettle when times are tough. When leading up

from the middle, here are three questions to consider:

1. What does the leader need? The boss is responsible for her

people as well as getting things done right. As a directreport,

ask yourself, what does the boss need to do her job

better? It may require you to think more strategically as well

as act more tactically.

2. What does the team need? Ideally, the team pulls together; it

doesn’t always happen because ego gets involved. The boss

often then spends time smoothing over bruised egos.However,

if a team member were to step forward and help in the

“smoothing over,” it would free the boss to focus on the big


3. What can I do to help the leader and the team succeed? The

answer may involve taking on more responsibility to do a

job, or it may mean stepping back to let others do theirs. For

example, if the team is struggling over direction or resources,

you may wish to pass (for the moment) on your

personal needs. Give one up for the team so that the leader

can push forward.

Turning those questions into a plan of action will provide a

roadmap for how to lead your boss in ways that make the boss

look good, the team succeed, and you emerge as a team player who

is adept at making good things happen.

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