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It’s hard to lead, but it’s even more perplexing when we are not really in charge. That means leading and embracing our role as a leader is difficult for 90% of us because the majority of us are not the person in charge of our organization.

What makes this, even more, challenging is we find ourselves waiting for permission to lead when our organizations need us desperately to lead without an invitation. Our churches, homes, and businesses need us to contribute and help them improve. They need you to lead even if you don’t get the credit or you are not being given permission to innovate.

Seth Godin shared a remarkable leadership thought on his blog…

The secret of the fly ball is that you don’t shout, “you’ve got it.” It’s not up to us to assign who will catch it. If you can catch it, you call it. The thing about responsibility is that it’s most effectively taken, not given.

People never become the leaders God intended them to be if they wait for an invitation to contribute, improve, innovate, create, or advance the mission. Leaders, who are not really in charge, must step forward and take responsibility to advance the mission of the organization if they want to become better leaders. Leadership is risky and comes with a cost. My friend Clay Scroggins just wrote a book our staff will all read called, How to Lead When You Are Not in Charge. I wish I had this book years ago when I was working through the tension of leading without given authority. If you are in a ministry setting this book will really help you work through this issue.

Let me share a few ideas that might help you navigate leading when you are not in charge and maybe give you the courage to boldly help your organization improve. (And seriously, go get Clay’s book!)


  1. Support and Pray for the Leader / How you pray for and support the leader you serve has a direct connection to the opportunities God gives you in the future. Be the person currently that you want to lead in the future.
  2. Share Ideas With Open Hands / Don’t leverage your best ideas for political gain or leadership manipulation. Give your best ideas for your current organization away and don’t worry who gets the credit. Even if your idea does not get used, keep sharing!
  3. Solve Problems / When you see something broken you can fix then fix it. If you have the influence to fix something then take initiative and make things better!
  4. Handle Your Responsibility / Make sure you are giving the area you lead your best effort! Keep innovating with the area you have been tasked to lead!
  5. Choose a Positive Attitude / This is so important. Make sure you maintain a publicly positive attitude about your organization. Positivity publicly leads to the opportunity to address problems privately.
  6. Fight for Emotional and Spiritual Health / Be a healthy leader when you are not the point person so you have a shot at health when you are in charge!
  7. Help Other People Win / Find ways to help others on your team get better and find success.
  8. Learn / Read books, listen to podcasts, stay current! Leaders are learners.
  9. Keep Dreaming / Dream about your future and the future of the organization you are serving. Dreaming allows us to have hope for what God will do in the future!