Do You Know How to Lead Your Leader?


Often we as government employees find ourselves working at the direction of appointed leaders who may have very limited knowledge of the actual job tasks or working elements of the agency. That does not mean that they are incapable or ineffective — they just have different responsibilities and thus must have different capabilities. Those of us who have extensive experience and knowledge within the agency must assist the new leader in order for the agency to be successful.
There are several great blogs available here at Govloop regarding the concept of leading or managing up, and I wanted to add to those with some additional points. Having the ability to lead up benefits the agency, benefits your leader, and benefits you!

To be able to lead up, you must first lead yourself exceptionally well. If your leader has to also manage you, then they will see you as someone who takes unnecessary time and energy away from the organization. Next, pay attention to your emotions and know when to display or delay them. Displaying emotion simply for your own gratification usually leads to the leader’s time now being spent on cleanup of the “fallout” and away from the operation. Leading yourself also involves being able to manage your personal life. You can be outstanding at work but if your personal life is full of drama it will eventually spill over into the workplace, and trust me, it will. Followers who frequently bring personal drama to work are exhausting.

Secondly, be willing to lighten your leader’s load. Do that first and foremost by doing your own job well. Strive to make your own performance impeccable. If you are not doing your own job to the best of your ability you diminish your own credibility with your leader. Then take on challenging assignments to help out your manager, especially when they seem overloaded. When you see problems, communicate them along with viable solutions. Simply noticing a problem is not helpful – you have to be willing to contribute a solution. Don’t be a follower who simply drives around a dump truck in reverse waiting to dump!

Third, be prepared every time you take your leader’s time. Managers appreciate it when employees’ come to them with issues or challenges having already thought through the issue and developed potential solutions. Managers usually don’t have time to think for the employee, they need them to think for themselves. Then get to the bottom line. You might have all the data, but that does not mean you need to share all of it all of the time. If the leader wants more information they will ask for it.

Finally, be better tomorrow than you were today. Growth helps you lead up. The better you are, the more people listen – even your leader! Build your competence in order to build your credibility, which in turn will build your influence. Elbert Hubbard said, “If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.” Continue to study and learn your craft today, because it’s about what you are doing, not what you are going to do that counts.

These tidbits are taken from John C. Maxwell’s book, “The 360- degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization.” I encourage you to read the section on Leading Up, if not the entire book, for more in-depth information. For first line supervisors and mid-level managers I would put this on your “must do” list. Next week I will be looking at leading up from the manager’s point of view with do’s and don’ts on fostering a “leading up” environment.

Chuck Bayne is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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