Working For a New Leader: 5 Actions For Leading Up

In our last post, Working for a New Leader: 3 Lessons You Should Learn, our emerging leader gave us some great suggestions on how to make a successful transition to a new leader. One of the suggestions she gave was leading up.

Leading up to your new boss is a delicate process. You have to be aware of your boundaries and the unspoken rules that your leader may have. The stronger your relationship, the less you will have to tip toe around these rules. But like all things, this will take time. So how do you lead up when the relationship is still in its early stages?

 1. Focus on relationships.

Don’t try so hard to add value to your leader by over emphasizing your production abilities. Be productive, but focus on how you will start developing rapport with the leader. The more time you spend with your leader and the better you get to know them, the better you will understand why things happen as they do, and then you’ll have the relationship and the knowledge to suggest improvements.  Every leading relationship, whether leading down, across or up, improves as the relationship and connection improves.

 2. Lead yourself.

One of the best ways to lead up in a new relationship is to have your act together as a follower by leading yourself well. While leading yourself may seem boring and uneventful, it is the first step in leading up because you take that additional responsibility of having to micromanage your own work away from your leader. As you manage your work well and take on additional responsibilities, you’ll lighten your leader’s load, and that is a key component of leading up.

 3. Pace yourself.

Don’t come across too strong in the beginning. Give your new relationships time. When you start with a new team you can’t pick up where you left off with your old team. You start all over. This is also true with leaders who are new to the team.

 4. Restrict team drama.

Most leaders dread dealing with “team drama.” Being the new teammate means you will add drama whether you mean to or not because you don’t know the unspoken rules. Don’t get caught up in office gossip. Keep conversations focused on your learning by asking questions about your area of responsibility.

 5. Ask questions.

The best way to lead up is to ask your leader questions. Always be respectful of your leader’s time and ask good questions that are well thought out. This allows learning to take place for both you and your leader. Ask “why” questions of your leader and “how” and “what” questions of your teammates. For example:

Why? Why is it important to do what we do as a company? Why would a client want our service?

How? How do we do things around here? How do I do my job best? How does a client buy from us?

What? What is my job? What is expected of me? What do we sell? What are clients buying from us?

Leading up is an unbelievable resource for your leader, but your leader must be open to it. Follow these tips and it’s likely that over time your leader will enjoy the process of letting you into their leader circle.


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