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8 Tried and True Practices to Lead up Well

lead up

Leading from the middle of the pack is an art form of its own, especially when you need to lead up. It requires maturity, security, trust, and competence.

Whether you are in your first job or have been leading for years, you never arrive when it comes to leading up.

Curiously, leading up is one of the most needed and least discussed skills. Perhaps because it can sound presumptuous, maybe even arrogant or manipulative in nature to “lead your boss.”

Leading up, however, is not the same as leading your boss.

Part of this issue is that so often, when the subject of leading up surfaces, it’s about what is perceived as an insecure, disconnected, or difficult boss.

These situations exist and often require experienced coaching, but candidly, they are not the common experience. So, let’s leave those situations for another time.

This post assumes a healthy and productive working relationship; not a perfect one, but a good one.

Specifically, your leader cares about you, develops you, listens to you, and is honest with you. Of course, they are not perfect. All leaders have weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, and flaws, but in a good working relationship, your boss is clearly for you and has your best interest at heart.

In this context, what is the purpose of learning to lead up well?

To serve both your boss and the church to the best of your ability.

What are the results?

You are trusted more, empowered at a greater level, able to make a significant contribution, you enjoy your job, and rise in responsibility.

8 Tried And True Practices To Lead Up Well

1. Earn your voice.

You have a leadership voice. Your team, especially your boss, wants to hear what you think. But it’s wise to earn your voice in the process.

When it comes to your leadership voice, here is a good sequence to follow.

  • Find your voice
  • Earn your voice
  • Use your voice wisely for the good of the people and the church.

I’ve coached leaders who have a strong and valuable leadership voice but hesitate to use it and leaders who haven’t earned their voice and use it too often.

This is an important skill to learn, and in many ways, the remaining seven practices help you earn your voice and lead up effectively.

2. Manage yourself, so you don’t need to be managed.

It’s often been said, “If you don’t manage yourself, someone else will.”

That’s a lose-lose situation. You lose the trust and freedom you desire, and your leader loses time tending to things you could have handled on your own.

“Lead yourself well” is the more popular phrase, but it’s essentially the same idea.

Leading yourself well does not exclude needing a coach, mentor, or some help. We all need good advice and support along the way.

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Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.