360-Degree Leaders are all-around leaders. As one, leading up can be the greatest challenge.

“Most leaders want to lead, not be led. But most leaders also want to have value added to them. If you take the approach of wanting to add value to those above you, you have the best chance of influencing them.” 1

Today, we’ll discuss 9 principles to lead up. Join us as we walk through the best ways to “support your leader, add value to the organization, and distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack by doing your work with excellence.” 2

1. Lead yourself exceptionally well.
“The key to leading yourself well is to learn self-management.” 3
In order to be successful, we must make the right decisions early and manage those decisions daily. Then, we are prepared to follow through on them with consistency.

2. Lighten your leader’s load.
“When the boss succeeds, the organization succeeds. Conversely, it is almost impossible for you to win if your boss fails.” 4
Be a team player and lift the load on your boss’ plate. By helping your boss in a great way, you are a part of something bigger and will have the chance to celebrate success in the end.

3. Be willing to do what others won’t.
“Few things gain the appreciation of a top leader more quickly than an employee with a whatever-it-takes attitude.” 5
As a 360-Degree Leader, you must be willing to tackle whatever comes your way without question. Your boss will recognize your dedication and desire to serve with excellence.

4.  Do more than manage – lead!
“Managers work with processes – leaders work with people.” 6
Robots don’t do the work in your organization, people do. Therefore, as a 360-Degree Leader, we must lead those people well. Think within a broad context about how your decisions will impact the entire organization. You’ll prove you can move past management to leadership.

5. Invest in relationship chemistry.
“People won’t go along with you if they can’t get along with you.” 7
As a leader, our job is to connect with people. We must connect with those we lead, our peers, and those who lead us. In order to lead up, be a champion of what your leader desires.

6. Be prepared every time you take your leader’s time.
“Time is the one commodity that cannot be increased, no matter what a leader does.” 8
Take steps and do research to prepare yourself and your leader for your time together. Main goals as a 360-Degree Leader should be to ask the right questions and to bring something to the table. Preparation paves the way for both leaders to add value to each other.

7. Know when to push and when to back off.
“Successful leaders make the right move at the right moment with the right motive.” 9
Knowing the right time to push and when to back off will determine if you get pushed right out the door. As leaders, we must read the atmosphere of the workplace to determine appropriate next steps.

8. Become a go-to player.
“All leaders are looking for people who can step up and make a difference when it matters. When they find such people, they come to rely on them and are inevitably influenced by them.” 10
To be a go-to player, we must always produce excellence. Leaders will trust us and count on us in moments that count.

9. Be better tomorrow than you are today.
“The key to personal development is being more growth oriented than goal oriented.” 11
Goals are valuable, but growth helps you achieve those goals. Focus on growth every day, and your leadership journey will be life-long and fulfilling.

Ultimately, you’ll benefit your entire organization when you aim for personal growth. As you read these 9 principles for leading up, think through where you can grow in each of them. By working toward serving as a 360-Degree Leader, you’ll gain influence with your leader and within your team.

What is your best tip for leading up? We’d love to hear what your 10th principle would be in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Learn more about leading down here and leading across here.
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1 The 360-Degree Leader, pg. 81
2 The 360-Degree Leader, pg. 83
3 The 360-Degree Leader, pg. 85
4 The 360-Degree Leader, pg. 95
5 The 360-Degree Leader, pg. 104
6 The 360-Degree Leader, pg. 112
7 The 360-Degree Leader, pg. 119

5 Comments

  1. Dusty on June 19, 2019 at 8:47 am

    I really appreciate this article.

    The thing I like the most, is that it focuses on personal development, growth, and motives more than it focuses on manipulation tactics. Thank you! Very helpful. 🙂

  2. Tim Sanford on March 10, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    Leadership is best felt when you practice what you preach, with some levels of transparency.

  3. […] If this is happening to you, what steps can you take to further your development? One solution is to “lead up.” John Maxwell is one of several leadership specialists who write about providing leadership for one’s superior. Leading up was one of the topics he explored in his 2011 book, The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization, as well as in articles such as “9 Ways to Lead Your Leader”. […]

  4. […] this series I’ve applied business leadership author John Maxwell’s advice from “Nine Ways to Lead Your Leader” and discussed how assistant principals can “lead up” to their principals. This post […]

  5. How To Lead Upward - Joseph Lalonde on August 14, 2020 at 5:30 am

    […] John Maxwell suggests you lead upward by becoming a go-to player. To become a go-to player, you need to perform your tasks with excellence and integrity. You have to be a person your leader wants to go to when he needs someone to step in during his absence. […]

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