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How to Lead When You're Not in Charge: a review

A review of "How to Lead When You're Not in Charge" by Clay Scroggins on Christian Leadership.

This year I determined to read through one book a month and as many of you know, while I am not a pastor yet, I have a desire to become a pastor in the near future. Because of that passion, I take on a lot of leadership roles in our church without ever being given a position in the church. Clay Scroggin's book "How to Lead When You're Not in Charge" was a helpful reminder on how to have a proper perscpective towards leadership and our role in ministry. The principles of this book could be taken and applied to ministerial leadership as well as secular leadership. For those who are in a position where you want to see things done, but you feel held back by not having an official position of authority; this book is for you.

As leader's who have not been given a position many of us have bought into the lie that "I need to be in charge if I want to get anything done (pg. 70). This lie often becomes an excuse for not getting things done or an obstacle to keep us from even trying. Scroggins points out that "Influence [not authority] has always been and will always be the currency of leadership" (pg. 27). We don't need position and authority to accomplish things for God, we can still accomplish great things for God without them; however, leading without authority can make it more difficult.

We all have ambition if we are true leaders. This ambition in and of itself is not a bad thing, but can become evil when it comes from the wrong place. "Unconstrained ambition might just be selfish desire" (pg 67). Some people feel that ambition is a sign of rebellion which it can become; but proper ambition is "that strong desire we have to make something or to achieve something even when it takes great effort, focus and determination" (pg 65). Selfish ambition produces a need to be in charge, to seek the praise fo others or to force control on other people.

"If you sense a voice inside of you telling you that your boss is the only obstacle between you and the life you've always dreamed of having, it's a distortion of your ambition"

Most people assume that because ambition is so often abused they need to kill it. Other's just give in and run with it. The proper balance can be found in Gen 1:28 which says, "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." The key word here is "subdue" which in Hebrew means "to subdue, cultivate and organize something in such a way that it thrives, grows and flourishes."It is stewarding our area of influence to see it grow, and flourish creatively and responsibly. Scroggins uses the term "kabash leader" to describe this type of a leader. In his words, a kabash leader "doesn't need authority, but he or she cultivates influence through relationships."He describes a kabash leader as:

  1. marked with humility because they know that pride sets us against God

  2. courageous not because they possess inner strength but because they know God is the one who controls the destiny of every man and woman.

  3. longs to organize and create for the betterment of all

  4. uses his or her influence to help others get ahead and not to get ahead of others

  5. pours out, trusting God's new mercies each day will be enough to fill them up

  6. understands that the motive for leadership is to help others for God's glory

The Four Behaviors of Great Leaders

The Central part of the book deals with four behaviors that leaders under authority need to develop to be effective leaders:

  1. Lead yourself

  2. Choose Positivity

  3. Thinking Critically

  4. Reject Passivity

Challenging Up

The final and third part of the book deals with challenging authority because let's face it the need to do what needs to be done is an essential part of leadership and yet sometimes we all struggle with doing it in the right way. Leaders see the problems and we may feel like authority is standing in the way of accomplishing these solutions. But good leaders will find a way when others can't see any way forward. If we are going to make meaningful change, we must know how to challenge authority in the right way. He gives these recommendations to be a great leader:

  1. Great leaders don't get defensive

  2. Great leaders challenge up with the best motives

  3. Great leaders are most aware of what the boss is most interested in

  4. Great leaders know what's core and what is peripheral

  5. Great leaders challenge up quietly but not silently

Key to challenging up is building relationship with your boss. This type of relationship is going to be dependent on Christ's love flowing through you. If you do not have this type of relationship with your boss, you might as well stop. Before challenging up Scroggins suggests you keep these things in mind:

  1. Be convinced that God put your boss in their position- If you were ready for your bosses position you would already be in it because God is the one who sets up rulers.

  2. To build trust, practice faithfulness

  3. Bring up disagreements when emotions are low

  4. Champion publicly. Challenge privately

  5. Choose to trust your boss

  6. Admit to yourself and your boss that you may be missing some information

  7. Prepare yourself to be ready for a "no"- Translate "no" into a "not yet"

  8. Find out the why

  9. Hold tight to the why, but loosely to the what

  10. Adjust your approach to fit the person


Scroggins has done a great job reminding us to challenge from the right place and in the right way. We all need humility as we approach leading when we are not in charge and a knowledge of how to properly approach change. I believe that this book would be a great help to anyone who is in a position where they can make a difference but they don't have the position of authority. If you would like to purchase a copy use the link here.

#leader #leadership #influence #christianleadership

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