How To Lead When You're Not In Charge

Day 1 of 5 • This day’s reading


Does being in charge make you a leader? Absolutely not. Authority is not leadership. Influence is leadership. While we cannot entirely disconnect authority from the leadership equation, I don’t believe we should begin there. At one point during his ministry, Jesus warns his followers that they should not confuse a position of authority with a call to lead. Because they are in danger of getting this wrong, he abruptly makes a distinction between how he wants them to lead and the way things typically operate in the world. “Not so with you,” he says (Matt. 20:26).

What is the “not so” of leadership that Jesus refers to here? It’s the type of leader who seeks authority for his own personal gain. Instead, Jesus argues that the best leaders, the ones who align with Jesus’s vision for leadership, will lead as servants who are aware of their responsibility and who answer to a higher calling.

Do you want to be a “not so with you” kind of leader? I hope so. I know what it looks like and feels like to use the gun of authority to get people moving, but Jesus tells us there is another way—a better way. Even if you have authority and a position of leadership, an inspiring leader does not need to leverage that authority. “Not so with you” kind of leaders learn that there are ways to cultivate influence and build trust. Jesus tells us this is a more powerful way to lead, one we can exercise regardless of the presence or absence of authority.

What are you doing to cultivate influence today?