Your supervisor’s success means room in the spotlight for you

The Future is “Leading Up”!

The Future is “Leading Up”!
Your supervisor’s success means room in the spotlight for you

By Dr. Sandi Coyne-Gilbert, MBA DM
MS Organizational Leadership Program Director, Goodwin University

Leading Up is truly a professional phenomenon, committed to connections and based on building a rapport with your direct report. By raising work relationships to the utmost importance in everything from recruitment to conducting business, people recognize that they matter to their organization and, in turn, appreciate their importance to one another and the people they serve.

Years ago, while conducting an applicant interview, I asked the common question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” To my surprise, the interviewee sternly gave me an answer that was anything but generic: “I want your job.” Quite frankly, I was a bit startled.

A striking study in business culture and connections, “Leading Up” is a committed, meaningful approach to companies’ investing in their leaders. As I’ve continued to study creating effective work relationships, I often remember the bold “I want your job” statement from that interview years prior. However, properly investing in Leading Up is not as simple as it may appear.

But what does Leading Up look like up close? Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Do not ask what your leader can do for you. Ask what you can do for your leader. A play on John F. Kennedy’s famous inauguration address, Leading Up embraces the altruistic concept of helping your boss, and eventually the entire organization, succeed. Ensure your supervisor is successful at work. Maintain a tireless commitment to seeking out opportunities to support your superior.
  1. Recognize your supervisor’s strengths and weaknesses, and learn how you can help. What are your superior’s strong points, and what are the tell-tale signs that assistance is needed? No one — including your supervisor — is perfect, and we all come into the office with our own unique set of skills and experiences. Be self-aware. Know when to melt with the mold and know when to break it. 
  1. Trust the team. No relationship, particularly one in a professional setting, can flourish without trust. “Tentative” trust is not an option: develop dynamic working connections and become an authentic advocate of your company’s culture. At the end of the day, credibility counts. 
  1. Curiosity did not kill the cat, it helped the cat to climb. Curiosity is key to strong leadership, as are a quest for knowledge and a love of learning. Have confidence, ask questions, examine your own perspective often.
  1. Those who initiate, innovate. Helping should be intentional, and purposeful preparation is key. Instead of solely calling attention to pitfalls or problems, aid your team with a fresh viewpoint and potential solutions. 
  1. In order to look ahead, have your boss’ back. Leading Up will not be successful if your boss is not confident in the work being produced and if coworkers do not feel they have an essential voice, tip-toe around transparency, or fail to encourage one another.
  1. Working relationships take time. Developing trust and forming strong bonds don’t happen in a day. While you may want to rush toward a solid relationship in the workplace, first invest time in completing tasks to the best of your ability, speaking up when warranted, and falling back when necessary. A crucial cornerstone of Leading Up is promoting team positivity.
  1. Asking for feedback fuels the hungry. Ask your boss for input on your work. Believe the positive responses, and use constructive criticism as a building block to make you better.

So, does Leading Up mean you are guaranteed to be promoted? If the only reason you enter into Leading Up is to be like the person I interviewed so many years ago who wanted to land the boss’ job, this journey is not for you. Leading Up is intentional action in your current role. If you keep the spotlight on the success of your supervisor and the organization, your willingness to work will not go unnoticed.

Want to become a valued leader in your organization? Learn more about earning your Master’s in Organizational Leadership at Goodwin University.