The Lasting Impact of Leading Up

I am fortunate in that I serve on a high performance team (  I would go a step further and say that I’ve had the good pleasure of serving on a number of high performance teams throughout my life.  At the same time there have been occasions and seasons when the senior leader was absent or distracted from providing the leadership the team needed and desired (sometimes I was that leader).  Perhaps you can relate!  As a consultant it is not unusual for me to be approached by someone who is frustrated or struggling with the senior leader. At the same time let’s face it, we are all human and regardless where we are in the leadership pipeline, we can fail at leading those below us.

If you are in a situation where you are not being led well, what you may not know is, you can and should do something about it.  I would go one step further and say you are part of the problem.  That’s right!  We all are responsible for helping lead those above us!

When it comes to leadership it’s important that we lead in all directions, or what Bill Hybels refers to in this short video teaching as 360 degree leadership.  By 360 degree leadership he’s referring to our need as a leader not to simply to lead those below us, but to lead those on the same level and above as well.  What you may or may not realize is that when it comes to leading, an effective leader spends more time leading up than he does leading down.    An effective leader leads from the center.

Which leads me to the question I want to address.  How do you lead up when your leader is not doing an effective job at leading below him or her?   Let me suggest three things I want my leader to know:

  • What I need to be successful at my job.  I want to make sure my leader knows what tools I need to be most effective.  This could include training, people, resources, technology, job description, clarity, time, and a whole host of other things.


  • What I can excel at and make my greatest contribution. I also want my leader to know how I can make my best and ultimate contribution.  I’m not helping the team achieve our overall vision if I spend my time on meaningless tasks or responsibilities.  I want my leader to know what I can do best and add the most value to our organization by doing.


  • What I need help with.  I want my leader to help me problem solve.  Maybe I’m doing a task I need to be doing, but I’m stuck.  I want him to know it long before it becomes the organization’s problem.

All this starts with good communication.  I’m going to do everything within my power to make sure I have a relational connect with him/her and that we meet on a a regular bases. The last thing I want is for my leader to only see me coming only when I have a laundry list of problems, complaints, or needs.  I understand that over time, if we don’t connect or meet regularly, we are going to suffer from distant decay, which simply means our relationship is going to deteriorate, no matter how well things are going.

Yes it is true everything rises and falls on leadership.  The question is whose leadership?  I think we all know the answer.  Take responsibility now.  Regardless of where you are in the leadership pipeline, lead well!  You won’t regret it.

Learn more about the impact of leading up – connect with an Auxano Navigator.

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David Putman

David Putman

David is a Lead Navigator serving on the Auxano Team, the category leader in vision clarity and vision focus campaigns. He is also founder leader of Planting the Gospel a non-profit ministry committed to helping churches move discipleship from a program to a culture. He has been involved in church planting for over twenty years as a planter, strategist, and coach. He is author of I Woke Up In Heaven, The Gospel Disciple, Detox for the Overly Religious, Breaking the Discipleship Code, and co-author of Breaking the Missional Code with Ed Stetzer. He latest book The Gospel Disciple Journey will be released in February 2014. David’s life mission is to help others discover the simplicity, centrality, and beauty of Jesus and his ways. David is married to Tami and they have two awesome kids, and two even more awesome grandkids.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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