Book Review: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge (Clay Scroggins)

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Title: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge
Author: Clay Scroggins
Year: 2017
Pages: 240


In this book, Clay Scroggins addresses a situation that is familiar to many of us: trying to be a leader without having the authority of a leader.

How can you lead change in your church when you don’t have the authority to do anything differently? How can you be a difference-maker when your job description limits your ability to make a difference? Scroggins has had those questions, but he says, “I had not yet realized that we don’t need authority to have influence” (p. 27). And, “Influence,” he insists, “has always been, and will always be, the currency of leadership” (p. 27).

Well, what do we need in order to build influence with those around us and above us? That is what the book really tries to explain.

Scroggins begins by digging into the issue of identity because “near the core of what makes a person a leader is their sense of identity” (p. 38). If you aren’t confident about who you are, how you’re gifted, and what God has called you to do, then you’ll be on shaky ground as a leader.


In Part 2, Scroggins gets into the practical stuff, what he calls “The Four Behaviors.” These behaviors aren’t anything new to most readers of this kind of book, but it’s always good to be reminded.

Behavior #1: Lead Yourself

“With the small choices you make when no one else is looking, when it’s just you and God, you are proving or disproving to him (and to yourself) your future ability to lead others” (p. 96).

Behavior #2: Choose Positivity

“This is not just positive thinking, a self-delusion that ignores reality. It’s based on a different perspective of your reality, a panoptic view of your circumstances. Trust-fueled, hope-filled, forward-thinking people can push through anything that gets in their way because their eyes are fixed on more than what’s directly in front of them” (p. 122).

Behavior #3: Think Critically

“Leaders who are critical thinkers don’t just criticize and whine; they learn. …Asking questions is at the heart of critical thinking. Questions challenge assumptions. Questions uncover the invisible forces behind behaviors and actions” (p. 135).

Behavior #4: Reject Passivity

“If you truly want to be a leader who is leading when you’re not in charge and capable of being trusted with more, you have to be willing to add responsibilities to your current role” (pp. 155-156).


Part 3 of the book moves toward the act of challenging those above you. Scroggins counsels, “The words you use when you share your idea are bricks that will either build a bridge of relationship for your idea or a wall of distrust” (p. 184).

The main idea of the book is that future leaders have to start leading in the present. According to Scroggins, “When we stop thinking about how we want to lead in the future and start looking for opportunities to lead right now, we truly learn how to make ourselves, and those around us, better” (pp. 212-213).

Putting in the work to make ourselves and those around us better is what leaders do, even when they’re not in charge.


Interested in reading this book?

Click Here to get your copy on Amazon.

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Trevor Hamaker helps youth pastors create momentum, reach students, and grow faith in their ministries. He has over a decade of ministry experience, along with degrees in business management, organizational leadership, and religious education.

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