How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge

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No matter where you are in your career, every one of us has been in the position of trying to figure out how to lead when you’re not in charge. Whether it was as the entry-level worker or the mid-level manager, there were times when you wanted to lead more and better, but felt that you were unable. For many of us, that feeling of being unable is due to a myth that we have bought into — that you must be in charge in order to lead.

Clay Scroggins, in his new book, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority, sets out to destroy this myth and expose it for what it is. In the introduction, as he looks back over his early years in work and ministry, Scroggins says,

“As I look back over my first few jobs, the common theme that has run through every one of them is regret. I regret the times I didn’t speak up. I regret the times I twiddled my thumbs, waiting for someone to tell me what to do. I regret feeling like a victim to the structure or hierarchy of the organization. Life teaches us that the authority to lead and the opportunity to lead are a package deal. We think they go hand in hand like cranberry sauce and turkey. When we’re given the authority to lead — a title, a uniform, a corner office — then, and only then, will we have the opportunity to lead. But that’s just not true” (21).

The Author

Clay Scroggins currently serves as the lead pastor of North Point Community Church, the largest campus of North Point Ministries. Even in this current role, and certainly in his prior roles at North Point, Scroggins works under Andy Stanley and understands firsthand how to manage the tension of leading when you’re not in charge. Drawing from his own personal experiences, as well as through researching and studying the topic for years, Scroggins writes on this subject as one with much to offer.

The Book

The book is separated into 3 parts: (1) Understanding our Challenge, (2) The Four Behaviors, and (3) Challenging Authority. The first part lays the framework for the book, showing that leadership can be exercised whether or not you have the position and power of authority. The second part, then, is the “meat” of the book, laying out the four behaviors of the person who leads well even when he or she is not in charge.

Personally, the most helpful chapter of the book in my opinion came in this second part. The chapter is called “Lead Yourself,” and the main point of the chapter is that we can never expect to lead others well if we are not leading ourselves well. Scroggins says, “With the small choices you make when no one else is looking, when it’s just you and God, you are proving or disproving to him (and to yourself) your future ability to lead others” (96). 

Scroggins lays out what this looks like to practically lead yourself with three simple things:

  1. Model Followership — Do you know how to follow well? If you do not know how to follow well, you will not lead well
  2. Monitor Your Heart and Behavior — You have to constantly check the emotions of your heart, examining for jealousy, anger, frustration, etc. And from our heart, our behaviors will flow, for good or bad.
  3. Make A Plan — To lead well, you must make a plan. And to make a plan, you must know where you currently are, have a vision for where you want to go, and develop the discipline and accountability to do what it takes to stay on track.

“Great leaders know how to lead when they’re in charge because they’ve been leading long before they were ever given that authority. That’s the big idea i hope you take away from this book” (212).


To be completely honest, I am just not that big into most leadership books. However, when I had the opportunity to review this book, I thought that it may be applicable to me in my current role as an associate pastor, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a look. I’m glad I did. While I didn’t agree with everything in the book (for instance, I think the author missed a huge opportunity to discuss our identity in Christ when discussing the value of identity in leadership), there were certainly some good thoughts and nuggets of wisdom throughout. Whether or not you are in an official position of leadership, each of us has the capacity and mandate to lead well where we are. This book will help give you some guidelines and thoughts to think through to ensure that you are maximizing the leadership that God has entrusted to you in your current role.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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