How Tech Leaders "Manage Up" | TechWell

How Tech Leaders "Manage Up"

While leadership and management are traditionally thought of top-down, there is a lesser-known aspect of leadership that's referred to as "managing up." Managing up allows you to positively influence the boss—or even the boss’s boss. Few people consider this aspect of leadership as a skill and therefore fail to make necessary connections with bosses. How do tech leaders manage upwards?

In his book Behind the Cloud, CEO Marc Benioff talks about his relationship with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison during his tenure at Oracle. "I had many long conversations with my boss, Larry Ellison, about my outside endeavor. Brainstorming with Larry about new ideas and products had always been the best part of my job."

Benioff considered Ellison to be his mentor, and Ellison not only encouraged him verbally on his endeavor, but he also was open enough to suggest and implement an unusual working agreement with Marc by letting him work on in the morning and Oracle in the evening.

You may credit Ellison for his openness and generosity, but what may not seem clear is that Marc played a part in managing Larry. He went out of the traditional manager-employee mold, made Larry his mentor, and established personal rapport about topics of immense interest to Ellison—innovation and futuristic ideas. By working to rise up to Ellison's expectations and interests, he elevated the work relationship to that of a close friend. 

Google made a major management shift late last year and with that the former Android and Chrome Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai was put in the number two spot at Google. When announcing Pichai's promotion, Google's CEO Larry Page said in a memo to employees, "We very much see eye-to-eye when it comes to product, which makes him the perfect fit for this role.”

Other sources suggested that managing Page was one of Pichai's greatest strengths. He seem to have proven himself as an able ally to Page when in meetings he could translate Page's out-of-this-world and difficult-to-fathom ideas to the rest of the leadership team. 

An employee can do a lot more than just follow the boss to be seen as an able ally. Pichai helped Page's voice and ideas reach the rest of staff and worked hard to align his ideas with that of his boss. And Pichai did all this without being asked to do so, which helped him to win Page's trust.

In his book How Google Works, Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt talks about his early days at Google and being aware of the negative history of CEOs being hired in founder-led companies. He was smart enough to work out an arrangement that didn’t interfere with Larry Page and Sergey Brin's work and decision style. Schmidt says that the challenge for him was to not to make more decisions, but he made peace with making fewer decisions to be effective at his job.

As James Caan mentions in a LinkedIn post, "Being great at your job is half the battle, the other half falls down to managing your manager and creating a happy medium; a working relationship which allows you both to flourish."

How good are you at managing up?

Up Next

About the Author

TechWell Insights To Go

(* Required fields)

Get the latest stories delivered to your inbox every month.