How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority by Clay Scroggins. Zondervan. 214 pages. 2017
The author is the lead pastor of the original and largest campus of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, which averages over 12,000 people in attendance each week. The book is written for those not currently in a “position” of leadership in your organization, but you have ideas and vision for how things can be done better. The book is about how to cultivate the influence needed to lead when you’re not in charge. The author writes about believing the lie that authority is a prerequisite for leadership.
He states that near the core of what makes a person a leader is their sense of identity. He indicates that your identity is the conception you have of yourself. He then reviews three common identity traps that snag young leaders, especially when they are trying to lead without being in charge. He reviews five basic components of identity. He states that nothing has affected his leadership more than listening to what God has to say about his identity. He states that if you fail to believe what God says about your identity, you will fail to reach the potential he’s put in you as a leader.
He addresses ambition of the leader, and that in its purest form, there’s nothing wrong with ambition. Believing that you need a position of authority to exercise your ambition is a lie. He looks at the two distortions of our ambition as leaders.
He states that when most people think about the challenges of leading when they aren’t in charge, the most common excuse they give for their failure is their boss. He tells us that if you’re working for a bad leader, at the very least, you can use this opportunity to learn how to avoid becoming the leader you despise when others are working for you in the future.
Among the other helpful topics he covers are self-leadership principles, the importance of critical thinking, passivity and “challenging up” (challenging your boss).
The author tells us that one of the best things you can do today is to begin asking yourself questions about how and why you want to lead when you’re in charge. Then, we should start leading with those answers in mind.
The author, in his 30’s, writes in such a way to appeal to young readers, using many references from modern culture (movies, television programs, music). He also uses many helpful examples from his own life when he was not in charge.
Below are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
- Influence always outpaces authority. And leaders who consistently leverage their authority to lead are far less effective in the long term than leaders who leverage their influence.
- The first step to master in becoming a leader who leads well when not in charge is how to model what it means to be a follower.
- Every good leader is also a critical thinker.
- Great leaders don’t get defensive.
- Challenge privately. Champion publicly. Do not confuse these two!
- You can tell the character of a leader not by how they are treated by their equals, but by how they are viewed by those under them.
- Leadership is not about waiting until people call you a leader. It’s about doing everything you can to lead right where you are.