College of Business

How to lead from the sideline

By Eileen Vedder | September 28, 2023

Do you feel like you are on the sideline at work? Are you new to your workplace? Do you lack experience in your current role but have the initiative to further your organization’s mission? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should be managing up.

According to Harvard Business Review, managing up is “being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company.” By managing up, you can show your boss that a particular action will be valuable. When your boss sees the value, he will enable you to perform that action.

Being an expert in listening, learning, energy, and relationship building will strengthen your case when you manage up.

1. Listening

Managing up starts with listening. If you were on the sideline of a basketball game, you would need to listen to your coach to know what plays the team is running because you never know when your name will be called.

It is the same with your boss. You need to spend time listening to understand how he works. It is probable that your boss has many years of experience. Take interest in what he has learned so you can benefit from his real-world experience.

2. Learning

Leadership skills can continually be developed. Many universities are adding Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in various areas of leadership. Charleston Southern University offers a Master of Arts in organizational leadership which integrates faith into the curriculum.

Pursuing an advanced degree in leadership can provide the necessary knowledge to manage up.

Continual professional development can also provide these opportunities. Having the desire to consistently grow in your field shows initiative. Initiative will provide the opportunity for more responsibilities.

3. Energy

In Lead your Boss, John Baldoni offers advice on managing up. He explained that energy is derived from internal motivation. By bringing energy to your workplace, people are drawn to you. Bringing initiative, energy, and motivation to your workplace will allow you to build relationships that will further your network.

4. Relationship Building

A key concept in career development is relationship-building. This will allow you to manage up.

Building relationships will also increase your visibility in the workplace. Focusing on your career development by networking will allow you to learn the necessary skills in leadership.

I know that feeling sidelined at work can be discouraging. Help your manager develop you into the leader you want to be. Prioritizing your listening skills, overall development, motivation for work, and relationship building will allow you to gain trust with your supervisor. Managing up takes work, but it can lead to growth and additional responsibilities.

Eileen Vedder is the coordinator of academic affairs for athletics at Charleston Southern University. She is entering her second year working in higher education and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in organizational leadership.


Baldoni, J. (2018). Lead your boss: The subtle art of managing up. AMACOM.

Rousmaniere, D. (2015, January 23). What everyone should know about managing up. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved July 24, 2022.

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