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Updated: Apr 23, 2019


Leading up- basically, leading your leader- is essential if you are committed to your organization's success. Your boss needs led just as much as you do for the company to thrive. But you might think, I'm pretty low on the totem pole here. How do I begin to lead my boss? What if my boss doesn't want to be led by an employee?

The key to successfully leading your leader is in your ability to provide vision, take on tasks, voice your opinion, and have influence over others in your company. Leading your leader takes skill and practice, but anyone in any position can do it.


One of the most effective ways you can contribute to your leader's success via "leading up" is to take things off their plate. By taking on tasks that you can accomplish, you build rapport and trust with your leader. You also build your value, meaning that when there are other opportunities for development or advancement, you will be the one at the forefront of your boss' mind because you are already taking higher-level skills off their plate and getting them done.

When requesting tasks from your boss, make sure you can accomplish them - and at a high quality. If you fail to properly accomplish a task that had leader-level expectations, you lose the trust and rapport with your leader that took you so long to build!


There's more to be cautious about when offering to take on tasks from your leaders' plate. "I've worked in an organization where I was taking things off my boss’ plate and I wasn’t just accomplishing them… I was making my boss look really good,” says Darryl Lovett, President & CEO of The Lovett Co. and co-host of The Success in Black and White Podcast.

“People started to realize that I was the one getting things done, and they started bypassing my leader for information and coming straight to me. They would ask me for information about things that my leader should have still had the authority to speak on. This put me in a tough position because if my boss’ superiors were coming to me, I felt like I was obligated to share information,” Darryl says.

“So I was answering questions about my work to my boss’ boss, but I didn’t go back to communicate with my boss about what was happening. When they did find out, they acted as a threatened person. Which made the work environment hostile for awhile,” Darryl remembers.

“I could have handled that situation a lot better and leveraged my mutual dependency with my boss to achieve the organization goals. Many of the previous opportunities I’d had were taken away from me, and I had to work for a long time to regain my boss’ trust.”

Want more on Leading Up? Tune in to the School of Leadership: Leading Up (Part 1) brought to you by Success in Black and White- The Podcast.

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1 Comment

Melody Johnson
Melody Johnson
Apr 28, 2019

I think there is such an important balance between helping your boss and showing your value and also making sure your boss understands your intentions to lighten your load. As long as you identify your intentions early on, this definitely helps your relationship! Leadership skills are inherently relational.

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