3 Ways To Lead Up & Make A Difference In Your Organization

News flash! You don’t have to be in charge (have authority), in order to lead. You don’t need a title to make a difference. All you need is the right intentions and the right insights and you can make a difference in your organization.


I am sure if you look at the organizations that you are associated with, you will find that most of the people inside are not in charge than those with authority (decision makers). More than likely you have been called to carry someone else’s vision, execute on decisions you haven’t made and expected to serve cheerfully.

Take a look closer at your organizations and I am sure you will find that there’s a subset of a few individuals. Some young, some older, who in spite of the fact that they don’t have the title of CEO, Owner, Pastor; they are influential regardless of not being “In Charge”.

Are these individuals special, are they just good at sucking up to the boss, or is it something else? I believe this group of individuals understand the concept of Leading Up.

Leading up is the ability to influence authority without having authority. Another way to look at leading up is the term “upward leadership“. I love what author Michael Useem, says about upward leadership, “Leadership has always required more than a downward touch: It needs to come from below as well as from the top, and leaders today must reach up as never before.”

Upward leadership is just as important to the success of an organization as downward leadership. Regardless if you are not the boss, new on staff, or if you’re young it’s important to understand that your perspective matters.

In your role on the frontlines, you see what your leader doesn’t see. You see problems before they make its way up to leadership. They can’t fix what they don’t see so now you have the ability to “reach up” and provide solutions to help the organization.

You don’t need authority to make a difference. Leading up is how you leverage your influence when you are not in charge. However, leading up could be a bit risky. If your intentions and motives are wrong it could hurt you.

I want to share with you three ways that you can lead up and make a difference in your organization the right way.

3 Ways To Lead Up

Know Your Role

If you want to be over people as a leader, you must first learn to be under leadership. Right now you maybe second in command or at the bottom of the organization chart. You may not be in charge of everything but you are in charge of something.

Owning what you are in charge of (your responsibilities) and making it better is how you earn influence and make your organization succeed.

You are a valuable part to the success of your leader and the organization. Carrying someone else’s vision requires that you buy into that vision. When you see how your role can help the organization succeed, it’s easier to show initiative and get things done in spite of having authority.

When others see you thriving in your current role, it makes it easier to see you moving into your next role. Regardless of your position, learn to lead yourself first. Have a positive attitude, a can do spirit that looks not to just highlight problems but to also submit solutions.

Be great where you are, help others succeed around you and before you know it, leadership will be looking to you for input. Leading up is a skill that you must continuously develop. Your ability to lead up today impacts your ability to move up tomorrow.

Find A Need

Making your leader better is a sure way to influence authority. You lead up by serving up. How can you make those above you better? Is there a strength you have that is a weakness for them? That’s a great place for you to serve them in. The best way to serve your organization is to find a need and fill it.

People remember those who help them the most. The more you add value, the more you fill needs, the more likely those in authority will listen to your ideas and insights. Get to know what’s important to the organization and leadership, find a need that you can fill and do it with excellence.

Sometimes you have to be willing to do what others won’t do to earn the opportunity to influence those above you. Influence equals access. The more influence you can earn by adding value to your leader, the more access you will have with your leader. If you want to gain influence with authority, lighten your leader’s load.

Honor Authority

Not only does influence give you access, honor gives you access to. When leadership knows that you honor them, it’s easier for them to trust you and give you access. Honoring gives you permission to speak up, say more and bring up issues that will be more receptive by leadership.

All authority has been given by God (Romans 13:1-2), including at the workplace. Submission to authority is an aspect of true honor. When we dishonor what God has established, we also cheat ourselves out of His blessing.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you allow leadership to cause you to break the law or sin. Hopefully, those above you have your best interest in mind, operate with integrity and is also adding value to you.

You can disagree with a decision by leadership and still honor leadership. You might find yourself not honoring your leader, you should consider going somewhere else if this is the case. If you don’t honor authority, don’t expect leadership to be influenced by you.

Showing honor where you are today will result in others honoring you when you are in authority someday. Honor gives you the access to be able to make the deposits and withdrawals with your leader; lead up. Let your words about your leaders be of good report. I love how Pastor Andy Stanley puts it, “Honor publicly results in influence privately.”

Again, leading up is influencing authority without having authority. Upward leadership gives you the ability to impact your leader and organization positively. Leading up is a skill that you must continuously develop, practice and execute.

To influence those in power you must lead up by serving up, being great where you are and giving honor to those in authority. People will follow a leader with a heart faster than a leader with a title.

Share an example how you’ve lead up with your leader. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.