Leading from below

In many ways, you get the bosses and clients you deserve. If they’re holding you back, change them. Don’t wait for them to tell you what to do; they may not, and it might go wrong (and then whose fault is it?) or they may brief you badly and it goes wrong. Do you blame your client/your boss? Or is there a possibility you might have been able to steer them in the right direction yourself?

Have a think about leading from below. You get good clients because you deserve them. One of the ways that you’ve become good at what you do is by leading your clients to make good decisions, so they understand your insights and have the guts to back you. That doesn’t happen randomly. It happens when someone leads from below.

A successful middle manager gets promoted when he or she takes the right amount of initiative, defers the right amount of credit and orchestrates success. That success might happen despite (not because of) who the boss is. And that’s just fine, because this is an example of being a leader – from below.

You have an astonishing amount of freedom at work. Not just the freedom to call meetings, make phone calls and pitch ideas, but yes, the freedom to leave your job, to find a new one, to pick the clients you’re going to take on and to decide how you’re going to deal with a request from someone who seems to have far more power than you do. “Yes, of course” is one possible answer, but so is leading from below, creating a reputation and an environment where the people around you are transformed into the bosses or clients you deserve.

When you do this with intention, it gets easier and easier. From a distance, it seems impossible, and it will be until you commit to it. Here are a few tips to take you in the right direction:

  • Earn the right by taking small steps
  • Convene, organise, learn, teach and lay the foundation
  • If they don’t get it, go somewhere that does
  • Hire better clients, regardless of the fee
  • Tell stories that resonate with those in charge
  • Demand responsibility, don’t worry about authority
  • Reflect credit, embrace blame
  • Do it on purpose

Thanks to Seth Godin’s blog.

Give us a ring on 01865 881056 or email us at info@leaderslab.co.uk if you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised here.