In our most recent blogs, we have been discussing the courage to confront and to call out “brutal facts.” This requirement of leadership can be made even more difficult depending on who is accountable for leading us (i.e. our boss).

The Oxford Dictionary defines “boss” as “a person in charge of a worker or organization”. At least that’s the description of the word “boss” as a noun. It describes “boss” as a verb this way: to “give (someone) orders in a domineering manner.”

And that’s the difficulty we can face as leaders in our attempt to “manage up.” I recently used the phrase “managing up” in a conversation and received a blank stare in response. I guess managing up is not a universal concept; but it is a useful one.

Because our working definition of good leadership is “influencing people to good outcomes,” and because bosses are people too (right?), we have a role to play in influencing them to good outcomes.

Why is managing our boss even necessary? As a person who occupies what many people consider to be a senior level position, I will let you in on a not-so-secret secret about leaders that color our ability to lead: Senior-level leaders don’t know everything (even when we act like we do).

All leaders, even senior-level leaders (and maybe especially senior-level leaders):

  • are dependent on others to supplement what they know;
  • hold expectations of what should happen when they provide direction that does not always completely align with reality; and
  • make decisions that, without additional input, will not be completely informed.

That’s why it is so important that we know how to manage up as part of our role to influence our bosses to good outcomes.

But we must be in a position to play this role, and this means we must also be considered trusted advisors by our bosses.

We’ll examine more specifically what it means to manage up and how to make sure we are in a position to do so in our next few blogs.


Greg Wallace is the Chief Operating Officer for HRock Church in Pasadena, Calif. He loves teaching and helping others pursue their life’s passion. He is passionate about developing leaders, building organizations and helping people and groups thrive in the midst of change.

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