The Care and Feeding of Your Leader

Your Leader May Crave the Same Things You Crave

By Tim Schneider

Over the years of leadership development and organizational development work, we have seen our fair share of bad leaders. In the same breath, we have not seen many that were purposefully bad; that set a predetermined course to do the wrong thing and treat people badly.

Equally often, we have been asked for advice on how to manage someone’s boss or supervisor. Agreeing that the competencies we provide work smashingly on subordinate team members but really can’t be applied upwardly in an organization.

With full disclosure, this will not help you today if you have a bad boss or a disconnected relationship with your supervisor. These strategies are designed for long-term success and proactively creating a great connection between you and your leader.

Leaders Are Human

The same emotions, distractions, events and life that impact you, impact them. Hopefully, most leaders have a pretty high level of emotional intelligence to help them deal with these events and to control their reactions but at the end of the day, they are every bit as fragile of a human as you. They may project tough but the reality is usually different.

Understanding and even inquiring about how your leader is doing can be a powerful reminder of his or her humanity.

Empathy Goes a Long Way

The best evolution from understanding moves to empathy.

Empathy is a bridge between the emotional state of one person to another. To empathize with your leader, you must try to feel what he or she is going through. Is there a lot of pressure? Is something going on at home? Are they being micromanaged?

If you know what that feels like, you can be empathetic.

Saying you understand or saying you’re sorry for what your leader is experiencing is a strong statement of empathy.

Appreciation and Positive Feedback

When was the last time you thanked your leader? Told him or her they were doing a good job? You appreciated his or her efforts in supporting you?

If you can’t remember the answer to those questions, it may be time to share some appreciation and positive feedback.

Make the assumption that they don’t hear much and also don’t get stuck on if you hear it from your leader or not. Just express appreciation and your genuine praise of his or her efforts.

Your Priorities and Your Leader’s Priorities

There is a high likelihood your leader manages more than just you. Your priorities and needs then have to be triaged with the needs and priorities of others. Please don’t assume you are the center of your leader’s universe. He or she is balancing service to many people and organizational elements.

Here again, a little understanding and empathy will go a long way.


We have yet to find the bold S in a blue chevron under the shirt of any leader. They are not superhuman and will wear down, get tired and simply be subject to burnout. Like with praise and appreciation, sharing a bit of upward encouragement can be very powerful for everyone involved.

As much as we cannot manage our leader, we do have some significant tools available to influence the health of this relationship over the long haul.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.

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