Leadership is often seen as a top-down enterprise. The notion that leaders lead and the followers follow may seem like a great ideal, even a necessity, but can encourage a work-to-rule mindset of minimalisation. The reality is that many followers are on the way to becoming leaders and many followers need to continue developing their leadership ability in growing organisations. Minimalisation is seldom a trait of growth environments. Creativity and fruitfulness can be fostered by learning the art of ‘leading up’.
To ‘lead up’ is to influence change around you, even with your superiors, but in healthy and respectful ways that don’t border on reactionary or rebellious tendencies. There needs to be a way of influencing change in areas that can allow followers to contribute to a healthy culture when they are no necessarily invited to do so. Here’s a few tips.
1. Use questions more than statements (see previous post on this subject) so that you avoid the perception of arrogance.
2. Do your own job well before you point the finger at others.
3. Own your mistakes so as to convey a genuine humility (and to possibly earn a margin for future errors).
4. Show initiative within current parameters (you will usually then earn enough permission to go just beyond them).
5. Cut your superiors some slack as they are not perfect and neither would you be if you were in their chair.
6. Ask for feedback on your own blind spots (yes, you have them!) and help to develop the idea that everyone is learning.
7. Allow a ‘no’ to sit well with you. You don’t have to change everything (you may even be wrong) and another day will surely come.