Leading up is paramount in a crisis because it allows for effective communication and collaboration among leaders at all levels of an organisation. Time is of the essence in an emergency, and every moment counts. Therefore, leaders must work together efficiently to make critical decisions, allocate resources effectively, and respond to changing circumstances rapidly.

It involves building strong relationships with leaders at all levels of an organisation, including superiors, peers, and subordinates. By doing so, leaders can gain buy-in for their ideas and initiatives, foster trust and collaboration, and create a sense of shared ownership and accountability for the success of the organisation’s crisis response.

“Leading up” is a term commonly used in leadership and management to describe influencing those in positions of authority above you, such as your boss, supervisor, or senior leaders. It involves building positive relationships, communicating effectively, and collaborating with those individuals to achieve common goals and objectives.

“Followers who tell the truth, and leaders who listen to it, are
an unbeatable combination.” – Warren Bennis

Leading up is vital for several reasons: It helps to build trust and credibility with your superiors. When you demonstrate your expertise and willingness to work collaboratively with them, they are more likely to value your contributions and respect your opinions. In addition, it enables you to communicate your ideas and concerns effectively. Overall, leading up is an essential skill for anyone in a leadership or management position, as it helps to build positive relationships and drive organisational success.

Leading up requires specific skills and strategies to influence those in positions of authority above you effectively. Here are some ways that leaders can lead up:

  1. Build positive relationships: Effective leaders take the time to build positive relationships with those in positions of authority above them. This involves being responsive and demonstrating your value to the organisation.
  2. Communicate effectively: Leaders must communicate effectively and frequently with those in positions of authority. This means proactively providing updates and progress reports, respectfully sharing your ideas and concerns, and listening actively to feedback.
  3. Show initiative: Leaders who lead up take the industry and seek opportunities to demonstrate their expertise and value to the organisation. This includes recognising problems and proposing solutions, volunteering for projects or assignments, and taking on additional responsibilities.
  4. Be bold: Leaders who lead up are visionary in anticipating challenges and opportunities, and they take action to address them. This includes identifying emerging trends, staying up-to-date on industry news and developments, and proposing new ideas and approaches.
  5. Collaborate effectively: Leaders who lead up comprehend the significance of collaboration and teamwork. This means working collaboratively across the leadership team, especially with those in positions of authority, to achieve common goals. That demands being open to feedback and suggestions and supporting the success of others in the organisation.

Practical leading up also involves keeping everyone informed of the latest developments and changes in the crisis, ensuring everyone is working from the same information and understanding of the problem. This allows for a more coordinated response and reduces the risk of miscommunication or misunderstandings that can lead to costly mistakes.

By building solid relationships with those in positions of authority, you can more easily influence their decision-making processes and ensure that your thoughts and concerns are heard. Finally, it promotes a positive and collaborative work environment. Everyone in the organisation benefits by working together towards common goals, including your superiors, colleagues, and yourself.

In short, leading up is vital in a crisis because it enables leaders to work together effectively, make timely and informed decisions, and respond to the problem with a unified and coordinated effort. Moreover, by utilising these strategies and developing these skills, leaders can effectively lead up and influence those in positions of authority above them while driving success and achieving organisational goals.


  • Sunita Sehmi

    Organisational Dev I Exec Leadership Coach I Author I Mentor I

    Walk The Talk

    Org Dev Consultant I Exec Leadership Performance Coach I DEI Warrior I Author I Mentor I Work smarter I Live better I Think deeper. With over three decades of expertise in multicultural environments, Sunita brings a unique blend of Indian, British, and Swiss heritage to her consultancy, fostering a deep understanding of organisational contexts and her clients. Sunita’s insights and expertise are tailored to elevate your leadership.