Eight true stories show that leaders today aren’t just bosses, they’re self-starters who take charge even when they haven’t been given a charge. Upward leaders get results by helping their superiors lead.
They make sure that good ideas don’t die on the vine because a boss’s understanding doesn’t reach down deep enough into the organization. Upward leadership assures that advice arrives from all points on the corporate compass, not just from the top down. And it applies at every level: Even CEOs need to learn about leading up because they ultimately answer to their boards.
In Leading Up, Michael Useem offers instructive accounts of this vital and unexplored facet of leadership. Drawing on the extraordinary experiences of real people, Useem shows us what happens when those not in charge rise to the challenge, and also what happens when those who should step forward fail to do so:
- Civil War generals openly disrespected and frequently misinformed their commanders in chief, with tragic consequences for both sides.
- COO David Pottruck learned how to lead with his superiors at Charles Schwab & Co. in order to radically change Schwab’s core business.
- Had he been able to convince his superiors of the dire situation in Rwanda, United Nations commander Roméo Dallaire might have prevented the genocide that claimed 800,000 lives.
- The CEOs of CBS, Compaq, and British Airways concentrated on leading down when they needed to lead up to their boards, too. The result: All three were fired.
- U.S. Marine Corps general Peter Pace reconciled conflicting priorities while reporting to six bosses with varying agendas by keeping all of them informed and challenging them when necessary.
- Mount Everest mountaineers admitted they might have protected themselves and others from harm during a fateful ascent if only they had questioned their guides’ flawed instructions and decisions.
- Even in government, representatives often need to first strike a deal, then lead their bosses to embrace it, as examples from the United States and Argentina illustrate.
- No one ever had a tougher job of leading up than Old Testament prophets Moses, Abraham, and Samuel, who interceded with the ultimate authority.
Leading up is not the same as managing up. Managing up is running the office; leading up is taking the reins and exceeding what’s expected. As hierarchies everywhere shed much of their rigidity, upward leadership at all levels becomes more possible - and more necessary.
Leading Up is a call to action. It asks us to build on the best in everybody’s nature, and it offers a pragmatic blueprint for doing so.
Leading Up: How To Lead Your Boss So You Both Win