Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

3 strategies to lead your boss

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Organizations are becoming flatter. Companies that once had deep hierarchies are flattening their corporate management.

CEOs, executives and other company leaders have so much on their plates these days they often don’t have time to get the best answers on how to proceed. Yet they do not always recognize that gap, and therefore proceed to tell you what to do next. Here is where your leadership comes into play…


Influencing executives, CxOs and vice presidents takes practice and patience. They are the toughest people in the world to lead. And yet, to truly have success in your area of expertise, you need to lead your boss. At a minimum, you need to get their buy-in to your strategy and approach. As a result, the concept of “leading up” is becoming more important.

Here are three practices you can employ to lead your boss and improve your results:

  1. Show your process and progress: Actively share the processes you use and make sure your methods are clear and acceptable. Find ways to clearly and consistently show your progress. Tools like roadmaps and progress dashboards work well, especially for product-related communication.
  2. Protect your team and share successes: Whether you have a team that reports to you or you rely on people from other teams, you need to protect them. You need to block them from executives coming around and changing their work. Get your plan in place, get it cleared with executives, then make sure they don’t come around and disrupt it (at least without compelling reason).
  3. Use facts, not opinions: Stick to the data. Find out what the market is looking for and how your products or services will best serve the market; then build that, instead of building or doing things that executives—or you—assume would be good.

If your boss truly wants to have a successful company, they will appreciate your efforts in these areas. They will recognize your efforts to do the right thing and award you for it.

Questions: What benefits do you gain by positively influencing your boss? How do you ‘lead up’ in your organization? You can leave a comment in the space below.

The Product Management Perspective: The idea of “leading up” is significant for product managers. The three practices listed above are highly applicable to (in fact, motivated by) my experience in product management. This is one of the areas of focus of The Leadership Skills Program I’m doing with Steve Johnson. Take a look and come join us!

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