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"Leaders are almost by definition people who change minds."
—Howard Gardner, Leading Minds
Your organization needs a strategic resource allocation plan.With budgets being squeezed and headcount being trimmed, you need direction on what projects you should pursue and within what timeframes. You have discussed this many times with your boss a but for some reason that you do not understand, she has not acted.
So what do you do?
You take action. You take the lead for your boss. You develop the plan on your own and submit it to her for approval.And if she approves it, you ask for permission to move it forward. In doing so, you are filling the leadership void through prompt and decisive action. You are demonstrating what it takes to lead your boss.
But, as you will discover in this book,“leading your boss” is really a metaphor for leading from the middle. Those who lead from the middle are those who think big picture and can do what it takes to get things done so their bosses and their teams succeed.
Very often such individuals lead their bosses, but they may also be leading their boss’s boss as well as their own colleagues and direct reports. Those who succeed at leading from the middle also are artful and adept managers; they utilize their management skills to establish goals, plan projects, organize people, and execute projects on time and on budget.
Not so easy to do, but it is possible when you rethink and reframe what you want to accomplish and how you want to do it.
That is, you are not acting for yourself, but you are acting for the good of the organization. This requires initiative, persuasion, influence a and persistence and no small amount of passion. Taken together this is what experts call “leading up.”
“Leading up requires great courage and determination,” writes
Michael Useem, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and author of an eponymously named book that popularized the concept. “We might fear how our superior will respond, we might doubt our right to lead up, but we all carry a responsibility to do what we can when it will make a difference.”
Individuals who lead up are those who demonstrate that they are aware of the bigger picture and are ready, willing, and able to do what needs to be done for the good of the team. Such individuals prove their mettle when times are tough. When leading up from the middle, here are three questions to consider:
1. What does the leader need? The boss is responsible for her people as well as getting things done right. As a directreport a ask yourself, what does the boss need to do her job better? It may require you to think more strategically as well as act more tactically.
2. What does the team need? Ideally, the team pulls together; it doesn’t always happen because ego gets involved. The boss often then spends time smoothing over bruised egos.However a if a team member were to step forward and help in the
“smoothing over,” it would free the boss to focus on the big picture.
3. What can I do to help the leader and the team succeed? The answer may involve taking on more responsibility to do a job, or it may mean stepping back to let others do theirs. For example, if the team is struggling over direction or resources a you may wish to pass (for the moment) on your personal needs. Give one up for the team so that the leader can push forward.
Turning those questions into a plan of action will provide a roadmap for how to lead your boss in ways that make the boss look good, the team succeed, and you emerge as a team player who is adept at making good things happen.
Part 1 What Does The Leader Need? 9
Step 1 Leading Up 11
Step 2 Thinking and Acting Strategically 24
Step 3 Pushing Back the Right Way 54
Part 2 What Does The Team Need? 79
Step 4 Letting Others Create the How 81
Step 5 Breaking Down the Doors 109
Step 6 Working the System 135
Part III What Can I Do To Help The Leader and The Team Succeed? 151
Step 7 Bending but Not Breaking 153
Step 8 Preparing others to Lead 171
Step 9 Leading with Presence 194
The Smart Guide to Positive Push-Back 207
About the Author 226
Posted May 1, 2011
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