Book Review: How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge

book-cover

I’ve lived in the Atlanta area for right at 17 years and have had the privilege of watching Clay Scroggins ministry develop from afar in the variety of roles he has served in at North Point Community Church.  To go from an undergraduate degree at Georgia Tech onto an MDiv and DMin from Dallas Theological Seminary all the while cutting his ministry teeth under the leadership of Andy Stanley, Howard Hendricks, and many others gives Scroggins a compelling story of how God desires to use the gifts and abilities that he has given us in concert with the mentors that He has placed in our lives to help us see more of the Lord’s perfect plan for our lives.  When I heard that Clay had written a book, I knew that I was interested in reading it.  His role is similar to mine in some ways and drastically different in others.  The one area where we are in lockstep is the desire to use our role to honor the Lord, to bring Him glory, and to make an eternal investment in those around us.

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins is a great read for anyone who desires to lead well right where God currently has them planted.  It’s not about what’s next, it’s about what’s right in front of you right now.  God is good and He is faithful.

I highlighted several things while reading this on my Kindle and have posted those notes and quotes below.  I’m grateful that this book reads like a long conversation with a friend who is walking out what God has for them where He currently has them.

  • Autonomy is a myth. It’s a myth passed from one generation of wannabe leaders to the next. Eventually, every leader is forced to come to terms with the reality that everybody is accountable to somebody.
  • the real leaders in an organization will find a way to lead the charge until they are in charge. Ultimately, those are the folks great leaders put in charge.
  • Great leaders leverage influence and relationships over title and position.
  • We come to see positional authority as a prerequisite for effective leadership.
  • Leaders don’t sit back and point fingers. Leaders lead with the authority of leadership . . . or without it. The authority is largely irrelevant—if you are a leader, you will lead when you are needed.
  • Influence has always been, and will always be, the currency of leadership.
  • In his TED Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe,” Simon Sinek explains, “Many people at the top of organizations are not leaders. They have authority, but they are not leaders. And many at the bottom with no authority are absolutely leaders.”1 Sinek is differentiating between authority and leadership
  • But what you can do is focus on your own area of responsibility and make it great.
  • Collins continues, “Take responsibility to make great what you can make great. And let others do it in the areas that they can make great. And if the whole company doesn’t do it, you can’t change that. But you can take responsibility for your area.”
  • When someone has to pull out the gun of authority, something is broken. You only pull out the gun of authority when nothing else is working.
  • “Not so with you,” he says (Matt. 20:26).
  • Jesus argues that the best leaders, the ones who align with his vision for leadership, will lead as servants who are aware of their responsibility and who answer to a higher calling.
  • 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. Practice leading through influence when you’re not in charge. It’s the key to leading well when you are.
  • waiting for the authority to lead slowly eroded the gifts of leadership that were inside me. Waiting didn’t make me more of a leader; it made me less of a leader.
  • Near the core of what makes a person a leader is their sense of identity. The way you see yourself is determinative for your life
  • our identities precede our actions; our behaviors flow from our identities. So before we spend any energy on what we do as leaders, we really need to spend some time on who we are as leaders, especially when we are not the ones in charge.
  • Paul speaks directly to this problem in Romans 12:3 (emphasis mine), “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
  • How has your past shaped how you see yourself? A worthwhile exercise to help you find your self-in-time would be to chart your life on a timeline by picking five highs and five lows from your past and marking them chronologically. If you’ve never done this, it’s a great exercise to do with a team or a group.
  • Who are the people around you right now, and how are they affecting you and the way you see yourself? Who is in your corner? Who shouldn’t be in your corner? Who are the loudest voices speaking into your life right now? Who should be the loudest voices for you right now?
  • We were all created to thirst for a purpose.
  • The degree to which you understand and feel a purpose for your life will affect the degree of security you have in your identity.
  • Let me say it again: your identity is healthiest when what God says about you is most true of you.
  • 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. Your
  • “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
  • “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
  • The distortion I see for many young leaders revolves around one word: ambition. I call it a distortion for a reason. I believe God has placed desires inside of us: a desire for more, a desire to see things change, a desire to make things better, and a desire to lead. But those desires can easily get twisted. And when the ambition inside us is distorted, it affects every aspect of our leadership.
  • When our good, God-given ambition is distorted, it can manifest itself in a selfish need to be in charge, to seek recognition, or to exert control over others. Clearly, these distortions of ambition are problematic and flat-out destructive.
  • The idea of a role where you can have all the authority and be fully in charge is found only in a monarchy or a dictatorship.
  • In the creation account of Genesis 1, we read about how God made us: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). You and I were made in God’s image. The imago dei. We were stamped with the image of God, and that has been passed down to us from generation to generation from the beginning of time. If you haven’t processed the weight of that, now would be a great time. When God made you, he had himself in mind.
  • In Genesis, God names the ambition inside you and calls it kabash. To kabash is to bring something under your control so you can make it more effective, beautiful, and useful.
  • A kabash leader doesn’t need authority, but he or she cultivates influence through relationships. A kabash leader knows that the way to the front isn’t by pushing ahead or waiting until the game is over; it’s getting behind people and helping them move ahead. Just like a master gardener, a kabash leader gives space for people to thrive and cultivates growth in others through time, attention, care, and kind correction. The way to lead is to serve, and the way to create something great is to give people space to thrive in the way God has gifted each one. A kabash leader is marked with humility because they know that pride sets us against God (see James 4:6). A kabash leader is courageous, not because they possess inner strength, but because they know God is the one who controls the destiny of every man and woman. A kabash leader longs to organize and create for the betterment of all—for the good of others and not just the good of the leader. A kabash leader uses his or her influence to help others get ahead and not to get ahead of others. A kabash leader pours out, trusting that God’s new mercies each day will be enough to fill them up.
  • Kabash leaders understand that the motive for leadership is to help others for God’s glory.
  • I’ve come close to having this quote by Tom Watson, former IBM CEO, tattooed on my body. (Though that would be super weird, I’m sure.) “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does on a day-to-day basis to lead himself.”2
  • Jesus was making a statement about stewardship when he said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10), but implicit in what he’s saying is that there’s so much more at stake in how you’re leading yourself than just you leading yourself. 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. When a younger leader tells me he is frustrated at not having a voice yet or not having influence yet, the answer I give him is to continue to be faithful in leading himself well. You can never go wrong by making that decision.
  • Self-Leadership Principle #1: Model Followership.
    If you want to lead well when you are not the one in charge, it’s imperative that you learn how to model followership.
  • Self-Leadership Principle #2: Monitor Your Heart and Behavior. What is easier to monitor, your heart or your behavior?
  • Leading ourselves requires monitoring those dark corners of our hearts where these dangerous emotions lie. Monitoring your behavior must be both horizontal (with others) and vertical (with God). This will mean asking some tough questions of those around you.
  • A healthy curiosity should drive your efforts to monitor your behavior. And not just curiosity for curiosity’s sake, but curiosity for the sake of growth. You need to cultivate interest in how others see the way you act and lead. There is feedback orbiting around your world that could change you, grow you, stretch you, and make you better, but the responsibility for soliciting that feedback is yours! You are in charge of you!
  • Self-Leadership Principle #3: Make a Plan. To lead yourself well, you need a plan. You will not lead yourself well by accident. It must be intentional.
  • Most of the big employment decisions in your career will happen when you’re not in the room.
  • Before you put a plan together for your own growth, you should ask your boss a question: “If an opportunity for promotion came available, what would keep you from fully recommending me?” The answer to that question could be the genesis for your personal growth plan.
  • Without a personal vision for your life, how do you know what to do with the opportunities that present themselves?
  • • If money were no issue, what would I choose to do with my time? • What really bothers me? What breaks my heart? • What makes me pound the table in frustration or passion? • What gives me life or makes me come alive?
  • I think Covey’s next comment is also worth noting. “We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.”
  • The more I see of the world, the better I see my own world. And the better you see your world, the more informed and equipped you will be to make wise decisions. Understanding can help you develop patience, graciousness, and greater discernment for all of life. A wider angle brings a wiser perspective.
  • Changing your perspective on your situation can change everything. Seeing what you do have will allow you to overcome what you don’t.
  • Hope is a confident expectation of something good to come.
  • “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
  • Every good leader is also a critical thinker. Leaders intuitively know how to make something better.
  • Being observant is another key leadership quality, because as we carefully observe things, we are able to better determine cause-and-effect relationships. Leaders know what to pay attention to and can find the variable that has changed or is out of place and is causing a certain result.
  • Leadership is the ability to motivate people to work harder, longer, and smarter, because the vision of the end goal has been painted so clearly.
  • Shift #1: Stop thinking as an employee. Start thinking as an owner.  If there is trash in the hallway or in the parking lot, employees may decide to walk past it. Or worse, they call someone who works in facilities to pick up the trash. Owners pick up the trash because it’s their reputation on the line.
  • In Romans 8:17, Paul makes this point clear: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
  • Shift #2: Stop stacking your meetings. Start scheduling thinking meetings.
  • The greatest enemy of thinking critically is an overcrowded schedule.
  • own your calendar or your calendar will own you.
  • Shift #3: Stop being critical. Start thinking critically.
  • Proverbs 29:25: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
  • People who are great critical thinkers want you to win. They’re motivated to make something better.
  • Shift #4: Stop giving others a grade. Start lending them a hand.  At the beginning of the semester, he opened his class by telling us he was not there to give us a grade, but to give us a hand. He assured us that if we felt graded by the tests and papers, it was unintentional. He wanted us to know that his desire was to help us more than he wanted to grade us. I can still feel the genuineness of his words.
  • Be known as a value-add, a problem solver.
  • The best teammates are those who are willing to share ideas, who are able to withstand their idea not being used, and who understand when they’re asked to carry something outside of their job description for a season. That’s remaining openhanded.
  • If you truly want to be a leader who is leading when you’re not in charge and capable of being trusted with more, you have to be willing to add responsibilities to your current role. When you sense yourself standing around waiting for more, a great first step is to look around for things that no one is addressing and take the first step. Don’t play the waiting game. You’ll miss opportunities to lead.
  • Reactivity perpetuates passivity. Passivity causes me to feel stuck.
  • What has my boss established as the greatest “win” for our team? • If your boss could wave a magic wand and have something done, what would it be? • What is your boss most worried about? What is creating stress? How can you relieve that? • On your team, what is a frequently discussed problem? Can you take steps toward fixing it today?
  • My good friend Tim Cooper has this line that pops into my head all the time: “You will never passively find what you do not actively pursue.” You’re not going to bump into leadership or wait your way into it. Don’t let the feeling of having little control beat you. Find a way to initiate by choosing, planning, and responding to reject passivity. Make use of the time God has given you because what you’re doing now matters greatly!
  • The instinct to do what needs to be done is an essential aspect of leadership.
  • In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner write, “Leaders must challenge the process precisely because any system will unconsciously conspire to maintain the status quo and prevent change.”
  • Great leaders don’t get defensive.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of awareness; it’s first aid for ignorance. Remember what G.I. Joe taught us in the eighties: “Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.”
  • Great leaders challenge up with the best motives.
  • Great leaders are keenly aware of what the boss is most interested in.
  • Great leaders know what’s core and what’s peripheral.
  • Great leaders challenge up quietly, but they are not silent.
  • Existing paradigms can change, but it takes wisdom, patience, and the right strategy.
  • Paul William “Bear” Bryant said, “If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride—and never quit—you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.”
  • Philippians 2:3–4 reads like this: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
  • Be convinced that God put your boss in their position.
  • To build trust, practice faithfulness.
  • Bring up disagreements when emotions are low.
  • Champion publicly. Challenge privately.
  • Admit to yourself and to your boss that you may be missing information.
  • Prepare yourself to be okay with a no.
  • Start by finding the why.
  • Hold tight to why, but be loose with what.
  • Disciplining myself to lead with questions helps me avoid the trap of rash judgments. Curious questions cause humility. Lately, I’ve begun every important conversation similar to this: “I’ve got a lot of thoughts about this situation, but I know you do as well. Tell me how you’re processing it.” This is crucial for me. Incorrect assumptions create walls and cause humiliation. If you choose to start the challenging conversation with questions, it will teach you something. It will build trust, and it will save you some embarrassment.
  • A good paycheck is great. A job with influence and opportunity is even better. So learn to challenge up well. There’s far more at stake than you realize.
  • Great leaders know how to lead when they’re in charge because they’ve been leading long before they were ever given that authority.
  • Nothing magically changes about your reputation when you are placed in a position of authority. The same reputation you have without power stays with you when you do have power and authority. Great leaders look ahead to the future and begin to act today to become who they want to be.
  • Start asking yourself what type of leader you want to be tomorrow. And start becoming that type of leader today.
  • What kind of working relationships do you want to cultivate? Those where your success is seen as success for those you work with. Solomon says, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2).
  • Are you the type of leader that makes others better? When people watch the way you lead, do they want to be like you or do they want to be as different from you as possible? Because not only do leaders make those around them better, they live and lead in a way that’s worth emulating.
  • Great leadership depends on influence. The more influence you cultivate today, the more you’ll have tomorrow.

 

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