Learning To Be A Great Leader: How Leading Up Can Influence Your Supervisor’s Leadership Skills

leadership skillsI work for a leadership organization.  On a daily basis, I am surrounded by comments, articles, research, subject matter experts, blogs, and books on how to be a great leader.  I believe in these wisdoms and the years of research that the experts walking the halls around here have uncovered.  They are prudent truths to me and I try to adopt these best practices every day.   A few months ago, I made the decision to go back to school and pursue a Master’s of Science in Leadership.  As if I am not inundated with enough about leadership, I wanted to learn how “outsiders” interpret what a great leader looks like, the experiences they’ve had with the leaders in their lives, and how they plan to be the best leader they can be both in and out of the workplace.

This educational journey has been interesting and exciting.  What I find most intriguing are the vastly different interpretations of what makes a great leader and the behavior great leaders demonstrate day in and day out.   I recently conducted a poll on Facebook and GovLoop and asked people what they believe to be the top three traits of a great leader.  The responses I received were so varied.  Some of them include thoughtfulness, integrity, consistency, good listener, collaborator, honesty, action oriented, passionate, empathy, and trust.  After reading all of the feedback, I started contemplating whether or not there really is a general list of the best leadership traits.  Does a leadership model, that we can provide to every individual that wants to be a great leader, really exist?  Or does every individual require their manager or supervisor to possess the specific leadership skills that will motivate, engage, and help guide them to success?  What if you find your dream job but not your dream leader?

Two traits that over 50% of the responders included in the conducted poll as a must-have in every great leader are communication and listening skills.  These skills are critical to every single relationship you will encounter in your life.  Sharing information, facilitating conversation, and listening to each other fosters trust and motivates people to want to do something good and productive.   What I realized is that if we do find our dream job minus the dream leader, we have the ability to “lead up” and communicate our needs to our leader in order to create a successful relationship.  This does require us as individuals to have good communication skills ourselves.  An effective way to build on these skills for both you and your manager is to hold regular one-on-one meetings that will allow the two of you to discuss each other’s needs that will lead to goal accomplishment.  After all, what should be equally important to the both of you is the success of the organization.

How are you leading up?  Are you able to openly communicate to your supervisor the needs you have in order to be successful in your agency?

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  1. #1 by David Carroll on December 12, 2012 - 7:55 am

    Your quick review of people’s perception of what a “good leader does” is a good reminder that one set of influence behaviors will not suffice. When influencing one needs to adjust behaviors to match the needs the receiver has to move forward with the influence. I have found that the Blanchard model is tactical, operational, and easy to use enough to guide myself and many others on a regular basis to meet the plethora of needs.

  2. #2 by Bud West (@BudWest) on December 12, 2012 - 11:20 am

    It seems that just about any list of leadership traits that anyone has compiled to inform about the consistency of “great leaders” could have also applied to great followers or great peers. Some people might subsequently argue that these traits present as more important for leaders than for others. However, I posit that leaders who develop and employ the best communication and listening skills, for example, will ultimately fail as leaders, if they don’t have followers who possess at least marginally similar level of those same skills. So, rather than identifying and assessing the traits that every member has to possess to achieve corporate success, I suggest that the real question comes down to identifying what separates leaders from others.

    Regardless of associated traits, those who accept the mantel of leadership take on the responsibilities associated with going before and showing the way, by definition. People who lead, place themselves in positions wherein they must provide directions (like it or not, to show the way means to provide directions), even when they might not actually know their present positions; much less how to navigate to desired locations or outcomes. The very nature of leadership requires its use when: (a) no validated, standardized procedures already exist; (b) someone needs to choose the situationally (contextually) correct proceedure(s) to follow; and (c) the existing procedures no longer meet the required levels of efficiency and effectiveness to meet the needs of the stakeholders. Conversely, when appropriate, validated, standardized procedures (knowingly) exist, no need for leadership exists. Some followers or peers might need training, diplomacy, marketing, or some other form of influence to overcome lacks of knowledge or motivation. However, once the selection and implementation of the correct procedures occur, I posit that the appropriate form of directing immediately and automatically shifts to management (or some other form of directing that few people enjoy discussing in public conversations).

  3. #3 by may on December 13, 2012 - 11:03 am

    I was privileged to have an amazing opportunity to work under a unique leadership. The entire organisation was thriving for excellence driven by set of leaders. It was the first time for me to work within an environment that has not only one leader leading the organisation but a set of leaders who were determined not only to drive the organisation but also to breed generations of future leaders. The common quality between them all was exceptional capability to show the way and give directions, listening carefully and pushing us to the edge out of our comfort zone while letting us know that they were there to catch us if we fall. They allowed for mistakes as long as it work as learning lessons. No matter how much you read about leadership, you need to see leaders in action to have a grip of what it is about.

  1. Learning To Be A Great Leader: How Leading Up Can Influence Your Supervisor’s Leadership Skills | Created4Wellness

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