Gina-McClainWe all find ourselves in the position of “leading up” at some point in our lives. Whether it’s in the workplace or where we volunteer, we all have an opportunity to lead our leaders.

There are times when I’ve led my leaders well and times I have not. Here are three critical steps I’ve learned to take in order to lead up with success.

1. Meeting before the meeting.  I watched this play out in a scenario I’ve been walking through. It’s brilliant. Have a ‘meeting before the meeting.’ If you’re leading into a challenging topic with leadership, it serves you well to make a quick connection in advance, letting the other person know what the meeting is about. No details. Just a quick overview that gives them something to digest. A brief snippet that sets the stage for the conversation. This puts your leader in a proactive posture rather than a reactive posture.

2. Clear and concise details. Here’s the truth. Your leader cares. They care a lot. But they’ve got a lot on their plate and their time is limited. Value their time. Do your homework. Present clear, concise, unemotional information to them. Your goal is to equip them with the information to make a decision. Not to lull them to sleep with details. Think through logical, “next questions” and have an answer prepared. Give them what they need to make a decision, your recommendation on best solutions, and let them digest.

3. Be solution-minded. There is always a solution. No matter the problem, there is always a solution. And you lead up well when you approach the conversation with this mindset. You fail to inspire confidence in your leader when you walk into their office with the posture that all is lost, the sky is falling and you just don’t know how this is going to work. Don’t be that person. If you have trouble finding a solution, seek advice. Find someone in your field, seek out someone you trust. Put the problem in front of others and ask their opinion. You may be surprised by the responses. But whatever you do, walk into that meeting with solutions to offer.

Leading up is a leadership reality that only the Pope is exempt from. Learning to do it well makes us better leaders.

Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children’s ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tenn. For the original article, visit

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