You Want To Lead Up? 3 Things I Look For Before I Follow You

It’s common to think of the words “Leading Up” as a situation in which a subordinate is trying to influence her supervisor. While this is a good observation, I also think it can apply to someone that’s looking for leadership opportunities or increasing their level of influence.

In that context, here are 3 questions I use before letting someone lead me.

#1 – Can you lead yourself? Can You Deliver?

I hear a lot about “leading oneself”. I have actually used the phrase many times. But what does it mean?

I think about this in terms of work products and emotional aptitude. It’s about skills and character in similar levels of importance. Thus, the question I ask myself is “Is he delivering a quality product and consistently exhibiting a positive attitude?”

I look at the individual in its entirety. It’s about controlling emotions, time management, priority management, broadness of thinking, problem solving aptitude, and energy levels at work and in their personal life.

And before you push back, let me be transparent and say that my first leadership role wasn’t deserved because my emotional intelligence was awful.

The highest level of leadership is self-leadership. – John C. Maxwell


#2 – Who’s telling?

This is an extension of the first question that focuses on the quality of the individual.

  • What type of person is she?
  • What does he value most?
  • How much congruence there is between what she says and what she does?
  • What does he stand for?

Similar to how feedback must be evaluated in relation to who is giving it, I evaluate the opportunity of following someone’s ideas based on who they are.


#3 – Who’s benefiting? What are the intentions?

This one is straight forward. Who benefits from following her? She, I, both, or the team?

Personally, I think the ideal answer is: Yes.

  • Why should I follow someone that’s only in it for themselves?
  • Why should I call myself a leader if I’m the only one benefiting from it?

A sign of good leadership is when we can think about the ultimate success of the team. Stephen Covey called it “Win-Win” mentality.

The purpose of life is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and to share. When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them. ~ Harold Kushner


You may be wondering why am I using three (3) questions I ask myself in order to help you with leading up. The reasoning is that if I’m asking myself these things, my manager is asking similar things about me when I suggest something. It’s not a guarantee but is definitely a place to start.

What criteria must someone pass before you listen/follow them? What are you current struggles in leading up?



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