Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss so you Both Win

| July 28, 2011

Title: Leading Up:  How to Lead Your Boss so you Both Win

Author: Michael Useem

Publisher: Crown Business, New York, NY (2001)

Call #: HD57.7 .U83 2001

From the Publisher: Today’s best leaders know how to lead up, a necessary strategy when a supervisor is micromanaging rather than macrothinking, when a division president offers clear directives but can’t see the future, or when investors demand instant gain but need long-term growth.  Through vivid, compelling stories, Michael Useem reveals how upward leadership can transform incipient disaster into hard-won triumph.  For example, U.S. Marine Corps General Peter Pace reconciled the conflicting priorities of six bosses by keeping them well informed and challenging their instructions when necessary.  Useem also explores what happens when those who should step forward fail to do so—Mount Everest mountaineers might have saved themselves from disaster during a fateful ascent if only they had questioned their guides’ flawed decisions.

Leading Up is a call to action.  It asks us to get results by helping our superiors lead and by building on the best in everybody’s nature, and it offers a pragmatic blueprint for doing so.

About the Author: Michael Useem is the William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania,and director of its Center for Leadership and Change Management.  Dr. Useem is also the author of The Leadership Moment.

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Editorial Review

Leaders today aren’t just bosses, they’re self-starters who take 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’ 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.

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.

  • 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 Romeo 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 their boards, too.  The result: All three were fired.
  • 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.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.