How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge

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No man or woman is ever fully acquitted of all responsibility. Just as there are inalienable rights, there is such a thing as inalienable responsibility.

What this means is that everyone leads something.

Everyone is in charge of something—even if it’s just you. Each one of us is responsible for the choices and decisions we make. We must all learn to rightly influence ourselves.

In this 3-day track, Clay challenges us to identify the ways in which we lead, even when we don’t think we are in a position of leadership. He reminds us that we are all always leaders – we are always in charge of our emotions, thoughts, reactions, and decisions.

Perhaps you’ve blamed your boss for poor leadership, or resisted your own leadership capabilities. Regardless of your circumstance, take the next few days to recognize your flourishing leadership. Complete the challenges at the end of the day to help guide your reflection.


When most people think about the challenges of leading when they aren’t in charge, the most common excuse they give for their failure is—you guessed it—their boss.

It’s likely that, at some point, we’ll all have to work for a bad leader, but that is not an excuse. I say that even though I don’t know your situation. There are some bosses who are insecure, unaware, and defensive and are intimidated if you choose to exercise any kind of leadership when you’re not yet in charge.

What I’m going to say in this chapter may feel next to impossible. But let me ask you: what is the chance there is still something you can learn in this situation where you currently find yourself? Even if that chance is one in a million, I’d like to quote my friend and yours, Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance. Yeah!”

When you aren’t accomplishing what you want to accomplish in the role you’re in, it’s natural to look for someone to blame. And the easiest target is your boss, especially when you’ve already concluded he or she is a bad leader.

When you make a judgment about someone, specifically your manager, you will persistently look for behaviors to justify the judgment you’ve made. Then, with your settled judgment in place, you look for every possible reason no one else would or could succeed in your role. It’s a self-defeating prophecy where you give yourself a pass for your own lack of leadership.

Reflection: Answer the poll below.

How well do you lead when you feel you’re not in charge?
  1. I never lead
  2. Only lead due to my boss’s lack of leadership
  3. I only when asked to do so
  4. Always lead

Article taken from and written by Rick Warren. Rick is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America’s largest and most influential churches.

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