“My job is to hold the umbrella, so the shit from above doesn’t hit you. Your job is to keep me from having to use it.”

This is taken right from Bob Sutton’s Blog. I read it, and it is the BEST description of leadership and reciprocity that I have ever heard!

Leaders must be knowledgeable and respect those who work for them. Leveling the field and clearing obstacles for staff to complete their work includes “holding the umbrella, so the shit above doesn’t hit you.” 

Letting staff know that by accomplishing their work, they are making the leader’s job easier. The work of those being led – is relevant to the leader. In many industries (finance, back-office admin, etc..) that do not see and interact with customers, the person who is being served and the person’s life that is being impacted is the leaders.

The reciprocity comes from that great line above, “Your job is to keep me from having to use it.” The staff must keep delivering quality products within specifications and time frames. The staff must continue to keep their work and behaviors “I” Focused. A staff that is aware, autonomous, self-directed, satisfied, and know what is expected for great work without being ass holes about it –> then you behave in ways that keep the leaders umbrella shut.

Below are some great lines from the blog post;

“This quote comes from a boss named “gschaadt ” who wrote a comment in response to my post (with the great picture) on A Shitty View of the Pecking Order.  The complete comment is

I always tell the people who work for me the same thing:

My job is to hold the umbrella so the shit from above doesn’t hit you.

Your job is to keep me from having to use it.

I think this is  brilliant because there is so much wisdom on so many levels.  First, it is really funny, especially when paired with the picture in the post.  Second, there is deep wisdom there about the relationship between a good boss and good followers — these are mutually supportive relationships, not one way. Even the best boss can’t do everything.  This boss –“gschaadt “– is more than willing to go to bat for his people.   But the implication for him or any other boss is, if people keep creating conditions where he or she constantly has to protect them, say, from superiors that they piss-off because they do shoddy work or break too many rules or anything else– a point comes where the difficult employee ends-up undermining the boss’s reputation, the reputation of his or her team, and ultimately hurting everyone involved.”

So – what do you think?

If you are a leader – how often do you hold your umbrella open?

Who is holding the umbrella over you?

If you are a staff member – are you focusing on the relevance you have to do great work for your boss?