Even if you are a boss, chances are you have a boss. You're in charge of running a department, a branch, an organization; but unless you're at the very top of the food chain, you've got to operate in a fashion that also suits the one you report to.
In healthy, functional organizations or systems, where everyone is pulling in the same direction, this is a non-issue. But conflict and stress can arise when a leader wants to do everything possible to help the organization but has difficulty doing it because of a lack of support from one level above. This can take the form of restrictions on autonomy; poor communication from top down; or even a basic disinterest or disregard by a senior boss for what the leader needs to effectively do his or her job.
I hate to say it, but bad bosses do exist. You hope that you are not one of them, and even more hopeful that you don't report to one. But if you do, here are a few things to remember:
Assess your situation. Take a step back and look at the big picture. How are you being affected? Try and understand the source of any conflict, or of any criticism coming down on you. Don't dismiss everything out of hand; instead find what validity, if any, there is in the directives coming down from the top. If there isn't any...
Keep your head up. Remember, the people you lead expect a lot out of you whether you are getting support from above or not. Try your best to remain upbeat and confident, even when you are rattled. This display of authenticity is important; you have enough to deal with and don't need unnecessary commotion within the ranks.
Don't over promise below you. Your employees don't just want good news--they want new equipment, new cubicles, and more staff when you've been told to make do with the old equipment, same cubicles and to actually cut staff. Do your best to maintain morale while also maintaining your integrity and tempering expectations. Under promising and over delivering is far better than the opposite.
Resist the temptation of insubordination. You know for a fact your boss's boss is a rational person. He or she will see the value in your proposals and understand your plight. If you could only make your case, maybe at the regional meeting... Stop right there. Nothing good can happen when you skip over or blatantly defy your boss. It may be tempting, but in my opinion there's no faster way to get into very hot water. This includes throwing your boss under the bus to your staff, even if you feel it is deserved.
Side note: I fully admit that the above is an "old guard" way of thinking, and that the Millennials may ultimately flip this on its head and make insubordination part of the problem-solving tool bag. But for now, I'm on history's side of the question.
Bear down and work even harder. You can spend time wondering how your boss ever got there, or daydream about when he will leave, but you couldn't possibly find bigger wastes of time than those. Good work, good results, and authentic leadership will do all the talking. Do more with less. Adapt. Lead. I firmly believe that you and your organization will not go unrewarded.
Leave it at work. Finally, this kind of conflict can be very stressful. To the extent you can, leave it at work and shut the phone off when you get home. When you just have to vent to someone who will listen, that can help, too.
It's true that employees with bad bosses quickly become former employees. But when you're the leader and you love your organization, you love your staff and your leadership team, you just love going to work every day, you can tolerate a little adversity from above.