Why effective leaders must manage up, down, and sideways

Today’s work world demands teamwork, and strong team leadership is essential to achieving both business and individual career success. Reflexively, we often assume a team leader is “managing downward”—providing guidance and support to subordinates, but this is only a third of the equation. It is also essential to manage relationships with colleagues and superiors. The building, aligning, energizing, and guiding a successful team requires an awareness of the strengths and needs of others, and the willingness to engage with them productively, whether they be direct reports, peers, or even bosses.

Managing sideways involves interacting with peers—fellow office workers and others, both local and farther afield when travel opportunities allow this. Sharing ideas, listening to concerns, and working together to tackle challenges are strategies great leaders use to connect meaningfully with colleagues, and which, invariably, improve both relationships and working conditions.

Managing upward is good for both the company and the individual leader’s career. Companies and organizations benefit when people engage beyond traditional functional and business-unit boundaries. This scope allows them to gather a broader range of perspectives that can help drive change and innovation. And leaders, even those in the C-suite, must also mobilize their bosses and colleagues to achieve career and organizational goals—even CEOs need the insight and pushback of trusted executives to help sharpen strategy.

Finding—or creating—opportunities to manage up, down, and sideways is a critically important strategy for leaders at all levels to employ in today’s team-driven work environment.

Read about how to spot executive leadership talent in our blog “Spotting Executive Leadership Talent: A New Needle