The more than 40 comments on my last post Hey Boss, What About Work-Life Balance? provide an interesting mix of views. Here are my thoughts on how to work effectively and build a relationship with someone like "Sebastian." This input comes from a position of advantage since I knew the real person.
The first key to building any effective relationship is to avoid stereotyping. Sebastian was a very effective, upwardly mobile manager with a focus on being promoted to the main board. Interestingly, most people liked him as well as respected him. It's just that he had a different life focus, which is not uncommon in successful senior executives.
The second key is to recognize that in every relationship there is a power dimension. How a manager like Sebastian would use his power is to an extent a generational issue. Many younger managers would see nothing wrong in you setting reasonable boundaries and procedures, as long as they understand their purpose. Managers with more experience are used to operating in a command and control environment are likely to react negatively to a "junior" pushing rules upwards.
The third key is mutuality. Team members need to understand what he or she needs from the relationship (support, resources, backing) but also what Sebastian needs from the relationship. Then, work to negotiate mutually beneficial outcomes that meet both sets of requirements.
For the team member discussed in the post, the requirement was time-related; Sebastian's requirements were not defined in the original post. However, by defining what's important to Sebastian, then linking your requirements to the achievement of his requirements, you can start to achieve real communication inside an effective relationship.
Finally if you wish to be taken seriously, you need to develop a reputation for credibility. Senior management needs to recognize that if you say something, it is backed up by facts, and if you commit to something, it is delivered. Credibility is earned by performance, but there is no harm in quietly making sure your performance is noticed in the right places.
In the end, relationships all depend on the situation. But mutuality and credibility are the two keys to advising upwards. If you are seen as a serious contributor to the organization's success and can link your needs to the needs of senior management, there's a high probability of achieving your desired outcome and benefiting the organization at the same time.