How the Best Leaders Manage Up Effectively

Managing up—finding effective ways to work with those above you on the org chart—it is a skill that’s rarely taught, but it’s essential to leadership at every level. Whatever your position, whatever your aspirations, building appropriate relationships with your higher-ups is important to your success and advancement.

The key is to develop the best possible understanding of your bosses’ quirks, preferences, priorities, work style, and communication style. Those insights will guide you in working with your bosses effectively and making a great impression. Here are some specifics to work on:

Shift your mindset. The skills that have served you well in attaining a leadership position and managing a team need to be adapted for success in managing up. Prepare yourself to take on a new set of skills and align them with your goals.

Build relationships. Take advantage of opportunities to meet and interact with your higher-ups, especially in informal settings away from the workplace—like receptions, fundraisers and athletic events. Getting to know your bosses and building a rapport in a relaxed environment is a great way to start building strong relationships.

Rely on your competence. Give yourself extra confidence in a situation like a presentation involving your bosses. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, remind yourself that you’re showcasing skills and strengths you already possess. Confidence is believing you are able; competence is knowing you are able.

Provide value. Think about what the people above you need and look for opportunities to add value. From this perspective, your job is to make them look good. Try to stay connected to their goals and objectives as well as their pressures and issues, and always be ready with ideas and solutions.

Make yourself indispensable. Some people equate managing up with sucking up, but that’s not it at all. It’s about highlighting your skills and showing you’re dependable and proactive. And all it takes is excellent work and a willingness to please. Do your job cheerfully, work hard and lighten your boss’s load where you can.

Communicate well. Be mindful of making a good impression as a communicator: don’t allow yourself to ramble, watch your tone and volume, and remember what you have to say. Be clear, concise and competent. Communicate well and you’ll automatically be perceived as knowledgeable and capable.

Don’t drop the ball. Be honest with yourself about your workload so you don’t overextend yourself. You may not have all the skills you need yet, and that’s OK. Taking on new assignments is a great way to learn, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from those who can coach and mentor you. Especially when you’re making yourself visible to the higher-ups, you don’t want to be seen dropping the ball.

Managing down, across and up all involve different skills , and all three are important to anyone in leadership. Work to build strengths in all three areas, but remember that managing up is essential to advancement.

Lead from within: Knowing how to manage up well is a major skill in effective leadership.


#1 N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R

The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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