Focus on Followers – Hallelujah!

In the leadership literature the term “managing up” is reasonably common. But how subordinates should manage their superiors – particularly in the workplace – nevertheless gets short shrift. Which is curious, because the problem confronts people at every level. Low level employees fret about how they and their bosses relate – as do mid-level employees and indeed upper level ones. Still, we are so fixated on problems facing leaders that problems facing followers are largely ignored.

A welcome exception to this general rule is a recent article by Sue Shellenbarger in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Right and Wrong Ways to Manage Up.”* The article points out that the number of dollars spent on leadership training for mid-level managers has decreased, while the number of dollars spent on leadership training for senior level managers has increased This leaves most mid-level managers especially without much education or training of any kind – including lessons on how to manage those more highly positioned than they.

There is nothing in Shellenbarger’s article that leads you to believe that any of what constitutes how to manage up is rocket science. To the contrary. Most of the advice is no more than simple common sense. Still, some of the nuggets on how to communicate with, how to engage, those more highly positioned than you, will be useful to some of the people some of the time. At a minimum they focus attention on those in the middle who tend not to benefit one whit from the big bucks big business invests in the leadership industry.




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