My typical tactics for influencing leaders at different levels

Jason Yip
3 min readJan 31, 2023


Originally presented at Agile Lean Ireland.

Leaders at different levels have distinct goals and context, therefore the tactics you use to influence leaders at different levels should also be distinct.

NOTE: specific organisations and situations will vary

Levels of leaders

  1. L1: Leaders of teams or individuals;
  2. L2: Leaders of leaders;
  3. L3: Leaders of leaders of leaders;
  4. L4 and so on
Picture showing different levels of leaders. L1: Leaders of teams / individuals; L2: Leader of leaders; L3: Leader of leaders of leaders; L4: Leader of leaders of leaders of leaders. I haven’t interacted enough with L4+ leaders to have a strong opinion about what’s effective.
Different levels of leaders

I’ve seen these levels operate as leadership teams as well as individual leaders. I have limited experience at the L4+ level so I won’t discuss any specific tactics there.

Influence L1 leaders by helping them learn how to be more effective leaders

Typically, L1 leaders spend their time:

  • Growing individuals and teams;
  • Hiring and firing;
  • Facilitating delivery;
  • Being the first point of contact for issues (escalation, questions, change management, etc.)

This suggests that typical L1 leader concerns include:

  • Being effective at listening, asking questions, providing feedback;
  • Dealing with strong emotions and high stakes;
  • In cases where they used to be an individual contributor, overcoming the “I could do it faster myself” instinct;
  • Know what to say to various stakeholders

This suggests the primary approach for influencing L1 leaders is to help them learn how to be a more effective leader:

Influence L2 leaders by helping them align a bunch of teams toward a shared purpose

Typically, L2 leaders spend their time:

  • Growing leaders (both formal and informal);
  • Negotiating for headcount;
  • Framing and facilitating overall delivery;
  • Coordination and politics with other L2 leaders;
  • Compensating for “air sandwiches” from L3+ leaders

This suggests that typical L2 leader concerns include:

  • Maintaining visibility of what’s going on with deliveries and how to deal with any problems that get escalated;
  • Dealing with politics;
  • Ensuring teams and individuals are aligned to broader strategies and goals

This suggests the primary approach for influencing L2 leaders is to help them align a bunch of teams toward a shared purpose:

  • Help them with large group communication (written, spoken) (e.g., simplify, logical structure, authenticity, etc.);
  • Highlight problems they weren’t aware of;
  • Help them with good strategy;
  • Help them deal with buy-in and politics (e.g., nemawashi, etc.)
First approach, first step “A single author wings it”, second step “We waste time recovering from a poorly received message”. Second approach, first step “Author writes a draft”, second step “Feedback from leadership team and/or targeted reviewers. Thi includes whether it’s written or verbal, in a large group, or multiple small group sessions, third step “Send message”, fourth step “Monitor reactions and follow-up as needed”, fifth step “Repeat message as often as-needed…”
Example process for improving the effectiveness of large group communication

Influence L3 leaders by not wasting their time… but also treating them like humans

Typically, L3 leaders spend their time:

  • Growing leaders of leaders;
  • Allocating headcount;
  • Dealing with higher-level politics, escalations, etc.
  • Strategy (especially trying not to create an “air sandwich”)

There are two main concerns I suspect with L3 leaders:

  • Dealing with extremely limited free time;
  • Dealing with lack of visibility due to distance and filtering;
  • Dealing with loneliness, lack of peer support, etc.

This suggests the primary approach for influencing L3 leaders is don’t waste their time… but treat them like humans:

  • Get to the point (including what you’re asking for) (i.e., inductive logic);
  • (Respectfully) say what is needed to be said. People with power still want to feel safe but appreciate getting unfiltered information.



Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl