Leveling Up

Leigh Bailey | March 4, 2020 | Blog | CEO/Other | 2 minute read

“Leveling Up” is a concept I and my colleagues talk about frequently with clients. What does it mean to “Level Up”?

To Level Up means to fulfill the role and responsibilities of your leadership level rather than one level below. In my experience, many leaders fail to fully understand the deliverables of their level of leadership. This is one reason why organizations are often over managed but under led. It is also why leaders have a hard time getting out of the weeds and thinking and acting more strategically. Leveling Up means different things at different levels of leadership:


  • Setting the direction (vision and strategy) for the organization
  • Building an aligned executive team
  • Acting as a role model for a healthy and effective culture
  • Using effective communication skills to inspire and align the organization around a shared purpose and vision

ELT Leader:

  • Leading with an enterprise first (vs. function first) perspective
  • Setting strategy and assuring adequate resources for your function
  • Communicating enterprise strategy and priorities to direct reports to assure they are acting in alignment with organizational priorities
  • Developing your leadership team and making certain that they are effectively “cascading” information “down” to their teams and back up to executive leadership

Directors and Managers:

  • Directing the day-to-day work of front-line workers
  • Acting as the “voice of leadership” to their employees by supporting decisions made by executive leadership
  • Communicating “up” to executive leadership information that is helpful in responding to marketplace concerns

One of the benefits of having leaders that are “Leveled Up” is that it helps to facilitate effective cascading of information into the organization. In this scenario, the CEO and executive team members are aligned on messaging and priorities. It is understood that an expectation of executive team members is that they cascade information about what is happening and priorities to their teams of managers and directors. Directors and managers then cascade the information to their teams and are conduits for information that needs to flow back up to leadership. It is understood that communication is a primary responsibility of being a leader.

One of the symptoms of a lack of Leveled Up leaders is when directors and managers are more concerned with being popular with their team members than being the “voice of leadership.” Effective leaders “identify” with their leadership role and understand that it is their job to communicate information and priorities in a constructive way, even when it is difficult. It is a role of executive leadership to hold directors and managers accountable for courageous communication, both down into the organization and back up to senior leadership.

Being Leveled Up is a necessary condition for healthy and effective organizations. If you suspect this may be an issue for your organization, give me a call or send me an email. TBG has solutions for how to make Leveling Up a reality in your organization.