How to lead my boss

In the past, leadership was easy – from top to bottom. At the top, decisions were made, and at the bottom, instructions were received for implementation.
This antiquated leadership style is no longer successful and no longer appropriate. There is so much information available in our world today that it is almost impossible for any individual to find the best option all alone. To succeed in today’s fast paced world, it takes sharing with several others. All of them must contribute to the thinking and help make the best decisions for the company.
Additionally top-down leadership today is no longer accepted by many, especially young employees. They do not want to receive an announcement for implementation, but want ambitious goals and a certain amount of freedom to think and a platform to take personal responsibility. They expect leadership with mutual respect.
And yet, the supervisor remains ultimately responsible for the overall result and must be properly involved. Therefore, your boss must be well managed.

But do I really have to lead my boss? First and foremost, I am leading my employees, right? Yes, that’s exactly what I thought as well when I was a young leader. Leaders lead their staff. That is right. But that’s not all. As a good leader, you lead in three directions: You lead yourself, you lead your boss and you lead your employees. When this axis works well overall, your team can deliver peak performance with fun.

And how do you do that as a lead wolf, how do you lead your boss effectively? How do you deal with the power of your boss, your own fear of possibly making yourself unpopular? How do you avoid the ambiguity that may lie in mutual expectations? What should I do, what should I avoid?

I see 4 specific things you can do to lead your boss effectively.

1. Clarify expectations, deliver results

Do you really understand what your boss’s goals are, what he expects of you and what he needs from you? If you have even the slightest doubt about it, then openly ask: “What do you need from me in the business?” Ask yourself, what balance does the supervisor want to strike between freedom and control? What does she or he want to decide herself and what should you decide as an employee?
Do you deliver all the results your boss expects from you, to top quality, completely and on time? Ask how satisfied your boss is with your results and your performance.
Are you helping your boss to be considered successful? Do you communicate your own ideas in such a way that your boss recognises his own advantage in your suggestion and does not feel offended?
Even if you are completely different personalities, mutual respect and understanding for each other should always be present. Understand how your boss ticks, what interest him, what is important to him personally and professionally.
In my first years as a young manager, I thought that when you work together, the expectations of each other are clear. Not even close. In fact, clear expectations, especially at the beginning of new working relationships, are often a pious wish, and certainly are not an automatic given. That’s why I developed a simple tool – the expectation talk. This guideline lays a good foundation for success, trust and cooperation, especially at the beginning of a new working relationship. These conversations have helped me a lot, both with new employees and with new bosses. In it, I ask a new supervisor, for example, what her goals are, what her preferred working style is, what she expects of me, which areas she intends to decide on her own and what I can and should decide for myself. Then we talk about my expectations and wishes. Whenever I have had these conversations, they have helped me a lot.

Therefore tip # 1: Ensure clear expectations!

2. Joint focus on business results

If you and your boss are tightly in tune on 3-4 crucial factors for your joint business success and priorities, you can achieve maximum success and fun. Are your priorities also part of your supervisor’s priorities? Does your boss know your top priorities and does he fully support them? When you have common priorities, you can pull together and be successful together.

Therefore tip # 2: Joint focus on business results

3. Avoid surprises

As a successful leader, you should avoid surprises for your boss. Does your boss feel adequately and timely informed, appropriately and timely involved? Do you trust your boss? Does she or he feel your leadership without being afraid of you? This is sometimes a tightrope walk and requires courage, but it is worth it as long as you avoid surprises.
For example, in a pan-European role, I once made a big mistake with my new European boss. We were about to accelerate our digital transformation, one of my three main projects. When my boss came back to Europe from a week-long business trip and communicated important good news to me by email, I forwarded this information to our countries with good intention. I wanted to get everyone on board quickly and take the next steps. I totally misjudged how important it was for my boss to send this information himself. I surprised him. And with his sensitive, disappointed reaction, he surprised me, he was angry, and so was I. It was my project, I had established it, I had pushed it and invested a lot into it. But my behaviour had surprised my boss negatively – and I learned a lot from it. Please do not make the same mistake.

Therefore tip # 3: Avoid surprises!

4. Align regularly

Take time regularly to clearly align with your boss. Especially at the beginning it takes a lot of time. However, the longer you work together, the faster you will become matched, whether in person, by phone, via email or SMS. In any case, I recommend that you coordinate regularly with your supervisor, preferably with a personal jour fixe with an update of your own results against your key goals and priorities. Also share your own concrete suggestions for important decisions and your own good questions about the main topics of your company. Then your boss sees again and again, what value you add to the business and how you think, even beyond your own area of responsibility.

Therefore tip # 4: Align regularly

Summarised my 4 tips for you as lead wolf, how to lead your boss successfully:

1. Clarify expectations, deliver results
2. Joint focus on business results
3. Avoid surprises
4. Align regularly

Thank you for your time and attention,
your Lead Wolf Stefan