Lead UP – Feel Great!

This week I invite you to join me in thinking about the ways you enroll and engage those “above” you – specifically the importance of “Managing Up.” Whether you are working in a business, volunteering in your community, are a member of a board, a CEO or in an entry level role, this leadership strategy and skill is often mis-understood, and not taught.

In the context of having the impact we are all meant to achieve, with joy and ease – it’s critical.

While we each do have everything within us to live in our purpose today, we also need the help of others to make the difference we are truly aiming for.  And, I’ve found that while we think a lot about how to help those we may supervise, or stakeholders we need support from, there’s not much awareness about leading in the other direction.

What is Managing Up?

Simply put, it’s helping the person/people in the leadership roles “above” you be effective, so that together the shared goals that are larger than one person, can be accomplished to benefit others.  Ha!  I added the key “so that” words – that don’t appear when googling “Managing Up.”

I prefer to call it Leading Up.

What does leadership like this look like?

The leaders I most respect understand how to help everyone around them. They Lead Up, by:

  • Understanding that their “boss” is also reporting to someone (a board, shareholders, a CEO, owner, supervisor, etc)
  • Understanding their own value, and valuing themselves enough to…
  • Communicate what they need to do their best work; understanding that their boss may not be able to sense/mind-read what is needed
  • Going on the offensive. Taking initiative when seeing challenges, opportunities, bottlenecks, frustrations and recommending solutions
  • Asking & Anticipating:
    • what their boss needs to do their best work, and why
    • what their boss’s top priorities are, and why
    • what their boss would like from them, when, and how (in writing, verbally, detailed, summary, etc.)


I live my life with the intention of helping others.  It’s why I’m drawn to the missions of non-profit arts organizations, and the extraordinary leaders within.  So, while the internet is full of reasons why making your boss look good can benefit you and your career (all true), I come to this topic from a deeper perspective meant to both empower the individual and create the possibility for big impact. It’s been my experience that when a group of people all lead  in “both” directions, the team flourishes, impact occurs, your individual value is known and acknowledged, and you feel great!

The Catch?  Hidden bias, prejudice and separation.

There can be a feeling that THEY (the “bosses”) are different than US.  It may be tempting to think that the “other” person should be doing/being something more.  Or, that by us having to help our boss, we are somehow “less than” or subservient” or that we won’t be able to get our “own” work done

Why is there resistance to Leading Up?

I was reading an excerpt from leadership development consultant Mary Abbajay’s new book MANAGING UP: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss.

Do any of these reasons resonate with you?

 “People push back for myriad of reasons. Most of these reasons come down to:

  • Ego shows when we get caught up in the need to be right—e.g. we say things like “my boss should…”, “my boss needs to…”, etc. Our ego prevents us from widening our perspective. We get trapped in our own view, needs, wants.
  • Our fixed perspective prevents us from considering alternative choices and we may find ourselves trapped in our own cloud of bitterness. While we actually may be totally right, the truth is that your boss isn’t going to change. All we can do is change our reaction and our interaction.
  • Which brings us to the last reason, resistance to change. Managing up requires us to adapt and change our approach. It requires extra effort and moving out of our comfort zone. Change is hard. Most of us would prefer the other person to change!

And, in most cases, it’s simply a lack of awareness that Managing Up – Leading Up  is even a “thing.”   

So this next week, as you think about your large To Do list, and perhaps even your frustration about what your “boss” is not doing… I invite you to take a minute to think about how you can help move the needle in the organization – and in your own effectiveness – by helping them.

Lead Up.  Feel Great.

To your success,


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  1. Kathryn, I loved your article, I feel inspired. You are absolutely right, we need to choose to have a small adventure and step boldly into the gray. Also, to turn off autopilot more often. From where I stand, those two could be the only way to move the needle sometimes. And you really made me think about that Harry S. Truman quote: It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. If we could focus on our goal and how we can most effectively apply our own superpowers to it, and stop comparing and competing with other people’s stories, we would feel our purpose and we’d end up happier.


  2. Thank you, Sonnya! How is your journey going now, these years later?

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