Leading Up

Many of us “lead up” in our companies without even knowing it.  Leading up is known as “the act of working with people above you…to help them and you get a better job done.”[i]  While servant leadership typically refers to a supervisor’s leadership style, leading up is another form of servant leadership because the employee is serving the leader.  When an employee leads up well, the supervisor can focus on other duties specific to his or her job.

In The 360° Leader, John Maxwell discusses the importance of leading one’s self before trying to lead others.[ii]  Many people want to be in a leadership position; however, there is usually a process to obtain leader status.

So, what does leading one’s self look like?   The following are great starting points:

  1. Be Reliable. Employers need to know that you are a reliable person.  Therefore, lead yourself well by consistently meeting work deadlines.
  2. After meeting your job responsibilities, volunteer to help in other areas.  It will show that you are driven and willing to work as a team player.[iii]
  3. Build Trust. Manage office relationships well.[iv]  If the team trusts you, it is likely your boss will also.
  4. Take Time. Do not try to rush yourself into a leadership role.  Be willing to take time to learn about the company and your job responsibilities.  Allow the process to happen naturally by continuing to show that you are a person who can handle the job.  Being too pushy could negatively affect your ability to lead others.

[i] Useem, M. (2001). Leading up: The art of managing your boss [Audio blog post]. Retrieved May, 2018, from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/leading-up-the-art-of-managing-your-boss/

[ii] Maxwell, J. (2011). The 360-degree leader: developing your influence from anywhere in the organization.
Nashville: Nelson Business.

[iii] Maxwell, J. (2013). John Maxwell on leadership. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from

[iv] Maxwell, J. (2010). John Maxwell: Lead from where you are. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from


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