How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge - Critical summary review - Clay Scroggins
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How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge - critical summary review

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Management & Leadership

This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: 

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN: 978-0310531579

Publisher: Zondervan

Critical summary review

There is a saying that goes, 'The world belongs to the brave.' Looking back through history, we can notice that in most cases — if not all — the real leaders who contributed and made significant changes were those who did not previously come from power and held no important position. Clay Scroggins believes that every individual has a unique purpose set by God. Consequently, each person serves as a leader, responsible for fulfilling God's desires, ambitions, and urges in their distinct way. With a vigorousity and a touch of cheesiness, Scroggins introduces a leadership theology based on Imago Dei, urging acceptance of one's unique self. This suggests that the dream position you desire already exists, and here is what you need to do to get it.

The myth of leadership that everyone believes

Today's biggest myth regarding leadership is the widespread belief that only those who possess a certain degree of authority can be—and are—successful leaders. The truth has a completely different face that is entirely opposite to this idea. Being a successful leader actually requires self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-criticism. Each of us can focus on one aspect of the workplace or the place where we have a certain role. In everyday life, we can find areas that can be improved, and we have the power to make a change from good to great. Another brutal truth that Scroggins clearly and actively points out is that authority is not leadership but rather self-aggrandizement and arrogance. 

Coming from the fact that he is a pastor of a church, Scroggins quite often refers to passages from the Bible where he highlights examples of Jesus and his behavior towards his apostles. As we already know, in the Bible, Jesus considers the best leaders to be those who follow the clarity of his vision of leadership, are aware of their responsibilities, and only refer to a higher calling. Therefore, people need to develop influence because even if they gain authority, it will not benefit them if they are not already influential.

Good leadership isn't about titles; it's about inspiring, and creating change

One of the biggest mistakes each of us makes is waiting for a specific title before taking on tasks that could bring positive impact and improvement. Here, Scroggins provides an example of a project coordinator in a marketing firm who noticed several inefficiencies hindering the team's goals. Despite lacking a formal leadership position, she took the initiative to address these issues and make significant changes to positively impact the project. Through proactive analysis and research, she identified critical areas and proposed solutions in a detailed report, presenting them persuasively. Her efforts were met with admiration from the supervisor, who recognized her diligence, dedication, and interest in improving team productivity. Recognizing the value of her suggestions, the supervisor implemented the proposed changes, resulting in significant workflow improvements. 

This example illustrates that anyone, regardless of their formal role, can stand out as an effective leader by taking initiative and advocating for others. Another example Scroggins provides is a young college graduate who landed an entry-level position at a financial firm. Despite lacking a leadership title, he understood the importance of continuous learning and proactive self-advancement for his career. Aware of the industry's constant evolution, he sought opportunities and resources for professional development, attending conferences, taking online courses, and seeking mentorship from senior colleagues to stay informed about industry trends. 

His dedication impressed superiors, leading to increased responsibilities and challenging projects despite his junior position. Scroggins emphasizes the importance of individuals taking initiative for their own growth and development. Effective leadership involves proactively seeking ways to improve oneself and make a positive impact in the organization rather than waiting for opportunities to arise.

The identity crisis comes from silencing our own voice and amplifying the voice of others

Identity crises are inherent to the human experience; everyone has confronted one at some point. It's a realization etched into our nature, forcing us to question what we've known about ourselves since birth, as it may not reflect the ultimate truth. A hallmark of leadership, as emphasized by Scroggins, lies in the profound self-awareness that shields an individual from being swayed by others' opinions. He insists that the quest to understand oneself is a timeless journey, and it's really never too late to start. This introspection becomes crucial because our identity shapes the influence we have, the type of leaders we become, and the course of our personal development. 

The author points out several ways in which a person can reach their true self, including exercises to discover how the past has influenced the development of our personality, who we are today, and the turning points in our life that caused the most emotions and were decisive for shaping us as individuals. He lists several tests on how we can know ourselves better, enabling us to become better leaders and better employees who create a healthy environment for successful cooperation with others. 

While Scroggins doesn't specify an exact method for discovering one's purpose, he strongly emphasizes that each of us came to this earth to contribute something to the greater good of others and the lives of the people we meet. He says life isn't a mission solely focused on personal happiness. The only way to understand this mission and find our identity is to believe only what God says about us to be true.

Having no ambition is bad, but having an ambition that blinds you is worse

You may aspire to become a leader, but have you genuinely reflected on why you desire leadership in the first place? What fuels the sails of your leader-ship, and where does that inner drive originate? According to Scroggins, this introspective aspect can often become a stumbling block, leading to failure. He contends that motivation is paramount, underlining that a distorted basis can steer you on a detrimental path with no return. In his observations, Scroggins notes that many young leaders are primarily driven by ambition. While ambition itself is commendable, clinging to it as a follower of Jesus poses a significant challenge. Each individual nurtures unique ambitions, influenced by personal convictions and the examples set by perceived leaders during their formative years. 

Reflecting on his upbringing, Scroggins recalls being instilled with the church ideology urging him to make something meaningful out of his life. Although ambition can sometimes stem from foul roots, such as a desire for power or pride at the expense of others, he advocates for recognizing a "holy ambition" grounded in justice and honesty. He emphasizes that possessing ambition is not inherently negative; however, allowing ambition to rule you can easily lead to ruin, as it often leans heavily towards self-interest. According to his viewpoint, God's intention is not for people to be led by wild ambition. Instead, the goal is to strike a balance, reason, and prioritize the greater good of the organization and others.

Those who do not know how to submit will never know how to lead

What Scroggins particularly emphasizes is that embracing humility and the power of serving others is one of the ultimate ways to become a successful leader. He asserts that those who do not know how to submit will never know how to lead. Being a successful leader necessitates being a good listener and particularly attentive to details to understand others' perspectives and the needs of individuals within the team or organization. 

Scroggins encourages leaders to ask open-ended questions and commit to actively listening to the answers. By doing so, they will gain valuable insights to make the right decisions, which will be followed with empathy and correctness. Gratitude is an inevitable characteristic of any successful leader. Leaders must create an environment where everyone feels valued and supported through regular expressions of gratitude and recognition of others' efforts and dedication, fostering a positive and encouraging environment where everyone can confidently express their opinions. This is the only way to achieve growth and progress because when one feels ignored and neglected, an atmosphere of anxiety and fear prevails, which has a detrimental effect on success. 

Additionally, Scroggins emphasizes the importance of transparency and vulnerability in leadership. He encourages leaders to be honest and authentic about their shortcomings and mistakes, as this fosters trust and promotes open communication within the team. Being a leader is not about never making mistakes; on the contrary, what distinguishes a great leader is the ability to admit when their judgment has failed and when they have made the wrong decision. By acknowledging their limitations and seeking input and cooperation from others, leaders create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives. This inclusiveness and openness encourage teamwork and innovation, leading to better results and overall success. 

Scroggins shares real-life examples of leaders who have successfully implemented these principles to illustrate the power of humility and service to others. One example is Mother Teresa, who dedicated her life to serving the poor and marginalized. Despite her humble title and lack of formal authority, Mother Teresa influenced and inspired countless individuals through her selfless actions and willingness to put others before herself. Her legacy serves as a reminder that authentic leadership is not about titles or positions but about the positive impact one can have on the lives of others.

Having a plan and being very aware of the path and your ultimate goal

To be a successful leader, you must first be a successful worker. Often, failure is attributed to poor leadership and supervision. However, in reality, employees themselves may share some responsibility for shortcomings. This is particularly true when an individual recognizes an issue but fails to take action – in such cases, they bear a degree of guilt for allowing the problem to persist. Every individual is responsible for themselves, including their feelings, thoughts, and decisions. Moral authority always precedes personal jurisdiction, so we cannot blame others for issues we are aware of but fail to address. 

Scroggins emphasizes that every future leader should have a well-defined leadership plan. This plan should involve a detailed overview of the situation and the current position, the necessary steps aligned with the vision for the future, and the responsibilities hindering the realization of that vision. A lack of awareness about our priorities and aspirations hinders progress. Despite the famous poet Rumi's advice to "start walking and the path will appear," the reality is we can't always be sure if the chosen path is correct. Scroggins emphasizes that individuals with a clear sense of purpose and direction are less likely to lose their way or veer in the wrong direction.

Observe the bigger picture; not everything happens to you - it happens for you

Everyone should know and be aware of when it is the right time to leave: the place, the job, the friendship, the relationship… everything. There is nothing worse than staying in the wrong place for too long. As a famous saying goes, "When we board the wrong train, it's best to get off at the first stop because the longer we travel, the more expensive it will be to get back." Here, Scroggins points out that sometimes, despite our efforts, we can't rectify things or convince someone of their wrongdoing. If the workplace fosters exploitation, unethical behavior, and excessive stress, it is a sign that it's time to leave. 

Our perception of the world is often mirrored in how we perceive our workplace and supervisor. Life may lead us to places needing change—a lesson in understanding what we can or cannot change. The key is to see the bigger picture. You can't become a successful leader without facing struggles and being in situations that demand serious decisions. Rather than responding with anger and rebellion to challenges, view them as opportunities to mold the person you are meant to become. Direct your energy toward the greater good, aiming for modesty, humanity, and humility. 

Recognizing mistakes is a human trait, so Scroggins advises setting aside pride, fostering collaboration, and working together. This doesn't imply blind belief but calls for a discerning approach. Criticism, he emphasizes, isn't always malicious; it frequently offers valuable lessons for future improvement.

Final notes

Andy Stanley said, "This book will be one of the most, if not the most, pivotal leadership books you'll ever read. "How to Lead When You're Not in Charge" by Clay Scroggins will help you gain confidence and not let the lack of authority paralyze you. Being a leader doesn't mean being served; it means serving. 

With practical wisdom and charming humor, Scroggins will inspire you to become not just a great leader but a leader whose rulership is deeply rooted in righteousness, goodness, justice, and honor—all supported by speaking the truth and striving to change the status quo and make a difference both in the environment and in the world that so desperately needs it.

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Who wrote the book?

Clay Scroggins is a bestselling author of his books "How to Lead When You're Not in Charge" and "How to Lead in a World of Distraction." He has served in various pastoral roles at North Point Ministries, a multisite church in Alpharetta, Georgia, led by Andy Stanley. Scroggins earned his... (Read more)

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