Seth Godin on Leading Up

Seth Godin recently gave a powerful talk at Creative Mornings, where he talked about several ideas, including “leading up.”

One of the things that I hear the most after I give a talk or someone reads one of my books is, ‘That’s great, but my boss won’t let me. I’d love to do something like that, but my boss won’t let me.’

Well of course she won’t! Because what you’re saying to her is, ‘I want do something really cool and really neat, and if it works I’ll get the credit, but if it doesn’t you’ll get the blame. Because you said that it was okay.’

Who would take that deal?

And that in fact, what we see is that the people who have jobs or who have clients who are making a dent in the universe, are doing it by leading the people who are ostensibly in charge to make better decisions; leading those people to have better taste; leading those people to have the guts to do the work that they’re capable of doing.

Here are my notes on the bullet points that he gave about “leading up:”

  1. Do it on purpose. Ask yourself every day, “How am I leading up?”
  2. Tell stories that resonate with those in charge.
  3. Demand responsibility but don’t worry at all about authority. In the bottom-up world that we live in now, people who take responsibility are often given responsibility.
  4. Reflect credit but embrace blame. People are eager to work with people who make them look good. Do small things — things that won’t get you fired — without asking. It’s the work that you’re after, not the credit.
  5. Convene. We’re not in the industrialist economy anymore, we’re in the connection economy, and connection creates value.
  6. If they don’t get it, go somewhere that does. This is the last resort. You don’t get tomorrow over again, you don’t get next week over again — one shot. So if you’re working with people who are truly stuck… you need to go find someone who gets it.

The whole talk is chock full of great ideas and statements. I encourage you to watch it.