How to Lead Without Being in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority came out just about a year ago, so for my timing, I’m actually a bit ahead having just finished it. It is really a great primer on exactly what the title tells you: how do you keep your sanity when you are a leader without the authority to make key decisions in your church, organization, business, etc…
I would recommend this book to most folks who work in organizations, but especially to any millennial. I wish I had read this book when I started my career. As an “old” millennial, I have experienced the frustration of seeing significant gaps in organizations I’ve worked in, but didn’t always have the maturity, and the wisdom to handle this well.
I also loved the cultural references in this book. The fact that a Tommy Boy clip made it past the editors is simply great. If I have one critique for the book, it would be a section that addresses when you need to leave an organization based on the behavior of your boss/organization. There are situations where leaving is really the only way to maintain your sanity, even keeping your mental health intact. Though this is probably an extreme example, it would be helpful, especially for millennials, to have some sort of rubric which they could discern whether or not their work environment is hostile or just imperfect, like most of life.
This is where How to Lead really flourishes. Scroggins really calls out employees to think critically about their attitudes and beyond that, how to have the best chance to impact an organization for the better. So with that short review, here are my top fifteen quotes from the book:
The more leaders I speak with, the more I realize that no one ever feels fully in charge. CEO’s answer to boards, principals answer to superintendents, pastors answer to elders, and government officials answer to the people. The idea of a role where you can have all the authority and be fully in charge is found only in a monarchy or dictatorship.
Kurt Vonnegut famously said, “I am a human being, not a human doing.” Vonnegut was an avowed atheist and president of the American Humanist Association, but his observation parallels the orthodox Christian view of how God created us. We were crafted in God’s image to be something before we were given any mandates to do something. This tells us something about GOd., but also says much about how God sees us.
So what has God said about why you exist? Have you spent time determining what success looks like in your life? I can tell you this:
You were created for something or someone bigger than yourself.
You were created to contribute to a greater good.
You were created to bring good to other people.
You were created to cultivate good in other people.
You certainly have a mission greater than making yourself happy.
If you sense fear in yourself, the best way to face those fears is with a healthier sense of self. You turn up the volume of what is true about you, and you listen to what God says about you. As you do, your identity will adjust.
Many of us tend to be passive with our thoughts and feelings. We treat them like they rule us, like they are in charge of us, and not the other way around. We forget that our thoughts and feelings are our thoughts and feelings. We own them. They do not own us.
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. As others see you respond to a bad boss, a terrible decision, or how you handle the stress of being overloaded, they will begin to see you as a leader, even if you lack the formal authority to lead. Your self-leadership in these situations will develop influence and prepare you for further situations you may face.
When I’m not in charge, I feel like I have no control and feel forced to be reactive. Reactivity perpetuates passivity. Passivity causes me to feel stuck.
The most well-planned idea usually wins the meeting.
Never present your boss with just a problem. Always bring a plan for the solution.
I’ve noticed that too often, when things aren’t going well for someone, our instinct is to look for more weakness in that person to justify the judgment we have made in our minds.
Interested in the book? Click here for a link to the book on Amazon.
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