Thinking Backwards: It Would Be Nice to Do That, But My Boss Won’t Let Me


One of the things I hear often when I give a talk about innovation at conferences is when someone says to me “It would be nice to do that, but my boss won’t let me.”

If you ask your boss if you could do something new or different, of course she won’t let you because basically you are saying I want to do something really cool. If it works, I get all the credit and if it doesn’t you get all the blame because you said it was okay. Who would take that deal, off-course she won’t allow you.

What we see is that the people who have jobs or who have clients and are making a dent in the world are doing it by leading up (leading their bosses/clients from the bottom up). 

The secret is leading up (from the bottom up) the people to make better decisions. Lead up your boss to make better decisions.

We have brainwashed by schools during the industrial revolution to follow the rules, keep your head down and do as you are told. The public school system has taught us not to challenge the status-quo, not to ask questions but to do as we are told by our teachers, the same system applies at work replacing a teacher with a boss. Now we do as our bosses tell us. We were taught to colour within the lines for 12 years of schooling. That’s why it is easier to follow what the boss says and not do anything new.

Here are four actionable items to lead up your boss or client right now. 

1) Do it on purpose – With purpose ask yourself, how am I leading up my clients to become better clients thereby finding more clients? How am I leaving tracks that will get my boss to become a better boss? Lead your boss to make better decisions.

2) Tell stories that resonates to those in charge – You can’t prove anything to the people you work for to get them to do something, but you can tell them a story that gets under their skin that resonates.

3) Demand responsibility, don’t worry about authority – People who take responsibility are often given responsibility. If you are willing to let other people to pretend to have authority it’s fine. You don’t need a badge. Let your work speak for itself.

4) Reflect credit but embrace blame – If there is something wrong embrace blame. If there is something the boss wants to take credit for, let them take it. They will be more eager to work with you. Do small things that won’t get you fired. If you do it 4 times or 6 times and they get credit for the small thing, they will let you do that small thing again. Then they may ask you to do it even bigger. It is the work you are after not the credit.

One thought on “Thinking Backwards: It Would Be Nice to Do That, But My Boss Won’t Let Me

  1. Yep! The statement “the best leader is a follower” does not apply only in leadership guidelines but also to followers. A great advice to not just follow blindly but ‘lead as you follow (layf)’.

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