Missions,  Spiritual Formation,  Team dynamics

Leading When You’re Not in Charge: 3 Key Steps

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?  “I could do that better if I were leading”; “I know exactly what this agency/church/group/team needs, if they would just listen to me”; or “if only I were in charge…”  I’m certainly guilty of these thoughts at various points in my life and my guess is you are too.  Unfortunately, they are typically misleading and unhelpful thoughts.  You can find entire books written on this topic (and I hope you’ll find them and read them), but for today let’s look at three simple steps we can take toward being better “behind the scenes” leaders.


Be Positive

Being positive doesn’t mean you have a bubbly personality (if that’s you, awesome, but it’s not a requirement), are unrealistic, or never speak of negative things.  I enjoyed reading the various definitions of the word positive but what stood out to me was this:  “contributing toward or characterized by increase or progression; having a good effect; marked by optimism”.  When tensions rise are we able to remain optimistic and work toward progress?  This includes avoiding gossip or malicious words about those in authority.  Am I using my sphere of influence to build a spirit of optimism and teamwork or am I feeding a destructive spirit? 


Be Self-Aware

Not self-involved or self-obsessed but aware of our own personality, our strengths and weaknesses, our tendencies in relationships, work, etc.  Do I struggle with time management and self-discipline?  Do I struggle with clear communication and expectations?  Do I respond poorly to criticism?   Do I allow my actions to be governed by insecurity and pride?  Am I willing to let others coach, mentor and teach me?  In essence, self-awareness is self-leadership.  How can I lead anyone if I cannot lead myself? 


Be a Problem Solver

“Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining”.  These words have been attributed to Teddy Roosevelt and I have certainly been guilty of whining in my 39 years.  I have a natural ability to see all the problems and I tend to be vocal about it…something that frustrates me about myself.   But in recent years I’ve felt challenged to consider how I can re-frame my natural tendency and use it for critical thinking rather than critical speaking.  We’ve all heard the saying “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem”.   How can I be a more effective problem-solver for the benefit of the team?  


Leaders will come and go, complainers will stay.  I’m grateful for all the authority figures in my life, whether I agree with them or not.  The reality is, we each have our positions for God-given reasons and we all have the choice to be positive, be self-aware, and be problem solvers.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position”.   ~ Stephen Covey

One Comment

  • Allan

    Well done. Everyone knows what the recipe needs until you put ’em in the kitchen!

    Leading as someone other than the formally designated leader is essential in so many areas of life!

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