Leading up: smart tips for increasing influence

Are you a manager frustrated by your lack of authority and ability to make positive changes in your organisation? Perhaps you have lots of good ideas for your team but you can’t seem to make them heard. You’re not alone. Lots of managers feel like this in corporate companies with a well defined hierarchical structure.

‘Leading up’ is a concept that can help you to sway your senior managers’ decisions from below to drive projects across the line and receive the green light on funding. Increasing influence upward when you don’t have ‘real’ authority to make things happen yourself.

Working on the principle of equality rather than inferiority, leading up looks at how you can add value to those above you to widen your sphere of influence. Rather than being a manager who’s worth goes unnoticed, you show your teams’ value (and yours) by making yourself indispensable to your boss.

This doesn’t mean that you’re always at their beck and call, it means proving that you’re an equal who can offer value and insight.

So exactly how can you lead your leaders?

Make your manager more successful

They say behind every good leader are great mentors and advisors. Becoming an advisor for your boss is one way you can lead up. The next time your boss wants a sounding board or wants to ‘run through a couple of ideas’ don’t look for excuses to avoid the session.

Supporting your boss to become more successful can indirectly benefit you by giving you insights into how the company operates. It also gives you a chance to present solutions to problems that your boss may not have thought of.

Take on your manager’s extra work

If your boss is constantly overloaded with work, see if they might delegate a project to you that you know your team can shine on. If they’re a micromanager they may resist at first as they know how they like to work.

But help them to see the benefit of giving up some of their workload and the value you can provide to the project. Not only might they be able to leave early for once, not work at the weekend or spend more time with family, but your team might have a faster and more effective way of finishing the job. Go in with a compassionate intent, and a mentality of wanting to help.

Show you have credibility

It’s all very well gaining more responsibility but you have to show your boss that you can get the work done to a high standard. Leading up is showing your boss that you have personal credibility, and that you’re clear on their expectations, as well as having the skills at hand to execute it.

For instance, if your boss wants you to take over the interviewing for a position because he or she hasn’t got time, then you may need to do your homework on interviewing techniques or spend some time questioning the HR team on the methods they use for interviewing.

Show you’re willing to learn

The best leaders are also the best students. Show that you have a willingness to learn by asking questions and listening to your boss, and accepting their feedback on your performance and your team’s. It can be hard to take criticism but if it’s meant constructively it can be an invaluable for increasing influence because you know exactly what you have to work on.

Show the value of your ideas

If your leaders are more focused on cost rather than seeing value, then you need to show them how outcomes will be improved by your ideas. You need to research thoroughly so you can be confident of having all the information to hand. Think about possible objections or tough questions you may be asked beforehand. Use inclusive language such as ‘us, we and our’, rather than ‘I and me’, and they will be more inclined to listen and support you.

Final thoughts

Remember that you are an important resource to the organisation and even if your boss doesn’t immediately give you direct credit for taking on part of their workload or having input in their decision-making process, there are many benefits to you by leading up.

At the very least you’re gaining invaluable company knowledge, and showing you’re a trusted employee both of which benefit your position as a leader. By making it more about ‘them’ than ‘you’ you can accelerate your learning and gain increasing influence in the workplace.

Ensure you have the confidence to speak up and be heard by senior leaders by downloading our free cheat sheet ‘4 Key Steps To Owning Your Confidence’ today.‘

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The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional development with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.

Shannon Lyndonn-Lugg

Shannon is an expert in the realm of Leadership, Development, Diversity and Performance. Using a strength-based approach to building leadership and cultural change, she has over 20 years of experience. She is particularly skilled at building a high-performance revenue generating culture change in organisations.