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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Groeschel » Craig Groeschel - Leading Up When You're Not in Charge

Craig Groeschel - Leading Up When You're Not in Charge

Craig Groeschel - Leading Up When You're Not in Charge
Craig Groeschel - Leading Up When You're Not in Charge
TOPICS: Leadership Podcast

What we're gonna do in this episode is a little bit different. We're gonna go back to a really important theme that we've covered before and we're gonna pick up some high points in it. What we do is we look at your questions that you send in and that helps us determine what kind of content we're gonna cover. And one of the most commonly asked themes has to do with leading up. You'll ask questions like I'm new on the team. How do I help my leaders see things that I see. I'm in a lower level of leadership. How do I influence those who are above me? In other words, you're asking, how do I lead my leaders? It's a super important question and it's something that with the right approach in the right manner, with the right attitude, you can make a difference from anywhere in the organization.

If you'd like to listen to the full previous teachings, you can go to episode number 12 and episode number 13. What we're gonna do in this episode is take some high points and then at the end of the podcast I'm gonna come back with some new application questions to help you lead from wherever you are. The good news is leadership is influence and you have influence whether you're new on the job, whether you're the top leader or whether you're lower in the organization, you can make a difference and wherever you are, you can lead up. The first time I remember leading up was years ago, I was maybe 22 years of age and I felt called into full-time ministry, wanting to serve in the church but didn't have any role. I had a pastor. His name was pastor Nick Harris. A hero to me to this day and Nick called me in for a meeting and Nick essentially offered me a part-time job to get young adults in the church. And I was super excited and yet at the same time, I was like, oh, but I wish it could be full time.

And so I actually lead up without even knowing that I was leading up and I said, "Pastor, I would be honored to do this part time. "Is there any way I could be full time"? He said, "Well, actually no, we don't have the finances". So then I asked, "Well, if I were to contribute "to the growth of the church and we had more people coming, "therefore more resources, then could I be full time"? And he said, "Well, yes, actually, that would be amazing". And so then I said, "Well, how many people would we need "to join the church under my leadership in order "for me to go full time". And he kind of looked like he had never thought of this idea and then he jotted some notes down on a piece of paper, doing some kind of math. And he said, "Well, if you influence 40 people "to join the church, I'll hire you full time". And guess what? Suddenly there was a goal. There was a promise. And within a certain amount of time I actually influenced 40 people to join the church and Nick was good to his word.

And what I realized is that I was 22. He was in his late 40s. I was kind of intimidated by him and such because he was such a father figure and a great man in my life. But what did I do? I lead up. Then over the next five years of working together, we had the most amazing partnership because he empowered me, trusted me, trained me and developed me. And guess what he let me do? He let me lead up from my perspective, a young adult and helped impact his organization to make it way, way better, because he had the wisdom to invest in me and also the humility to allow me to lead up. Why is leading up important? Let's dive into some content.

Number one, why is leading up important? Because no organization will ever be what it could be without honest, upward communication. Let me say it again. Your organization, it will never, ever be what it could be without honest, upward communication. If you are not in charge, you need to understand you are on the front lines. You see things that others don't see. You have ideas that could make a big difference. In fact, many of you, you're thinking of solutions to problems that your supervisors do not even know exist. That's how important you are. No organization will ever be what it could be without honest, upward communication.

Number two, your ability to lead up now will help determine your ability to move up later. If you make a difference wherever you are, that will open doors for more influence in your organization in the future. Now the biggest myth in leadership is this hands down. The biggest myth in leadership is this. That you have to be in charge in order to lead. There is nothing further from the truth. You do not have to be in charge to have influence or to lead. The great news is years ago leadership was often thought of as positional power. In other words if you have the title, you have the power. If you have the position, you have the power. Today, things are really, really different and I think it's great. Instead of just having positional power.

Now, people have what we might call personal power. What is personal power? Personal power is simply based on what any group of people think about a person. If you're trustworthy, you'll have personal power. If you care about people, you'll have personal power. If you listen to others, if you get things done, you'll have personal power. And interestingly enough, positional power is not what it used to be. In fact, many of the younger generation actually are more skeptical about positional power, sometimes resent positional power. What they're looking for is authenticity. They're looking for people who care. Personal power, you can make a difference anywhere from your organization if you really care about people. So what do we do? We're gonna lead up by serving up. We're gonna lead up by serving up. We're going to influence those above us starting with a serving attitude.

If you wanna influence, care about people, love them, help them improve, why? Because people will follow a leader with a heart faster than a leader with a title. Let me say it again. People will follow a leader with a heart faster than a leader with a title. You do not need a title in order to lead. Five things that matter when leading up. Before we talk about number one, let's just acknowledge that leading up can be a little risky. If you lead up in the wrong way, it can cost you. If you lead up with a rebellious attitude, you can be labeled as a troublemaker. They think you have a critical spirit or whatever. And let's just go ahead and call it what it is. If you serve under an insecure leader, a stubborn leader or an overly confident leader, leading up can be very, very tricky.

Let me say it again. If they're insecure, stubborn or overly confident, it's tricky and so we're gonna get into some details. How do you lead up effectively? Number one, if you're taking notes, honor matters. Showing honor matters. I asked my pastor, "Why did you let me make so many decisions? "Why did you trust me to influence the organization"? And he said, "Because you always showed honor to me". You always showed honor to me. You always had my back. I like what my friend, Andy Stanley says, he says this. He says, "Honor publicly results in influence privately". It's so powerful. Honor publicly results in influence privately. If you don't feel a sense of honor for the person who is above you, they're gonna sense it through you. If you're looking around going I could do better than that. I should be in that role. What you need to understand is that if you were supposed to be in that role, you would be in that role. You're not in that role because you're not yet supposed to be in that role. If you want one day to be over others, you need to learn to be under others and show honor. Show honor where you are.

Now, you may say, well, but my leader is not amazing. If I worked for a great leader, it'd be easy to show honor. Now you're mixing respect and honor. When you remember that respect is earned, honor is given. Respect is earned but we simply honor those in authority over us. We believe that they are there because they're supposed to be there and we're gonna serve them and help their mission be better. Now, if you don't honor your boss, your supervisor, the owner, your pastor, whatever. Then quite honestly, you might consider doing everyone a favor and going somewhere else where you can show honor, because if you wanna lead up, you have to honor up. If you wanna lead up, you have to serve up. Number one, honor matters. Number two, if you wanna pitch an idea, you wanna help influence your supervisor, your boss. Timing matters. Timing matters. Now men, we know this is true. If you're married, timing matters. I don't understand it but I can approach my wife one day, be kind of flirty and I'm cute and adorable. I can approach her the next day, do the same thing and I'm a jerk.

Well, what happened? I don't know. It's a mystery to me. But my wife will sometimes say you have the worst timing. Like I thought all times were good to be romantic but evidently there's some times better than others. If you wanna lead up timing really, really matters. Timing matters. Make sure the time is right to pitch your idea. For example, on our team, the public bathrooms are right by a guy's office. I'll often go into the bathroom and he'll follow me into the bathroom and try to pitch an idea. Can I just say, that's bad timing. It's bad timing. Don't pitch an idea when some guy is going to the bathroom and it's kind of a joke but you really want to make sure the timing is right. What you'll wanna do is look at the rhythms of those you serve and ask yourself, what is the best time of the week and even the best time of the day?

For example for me, Mondays, I've kind of, I'm exhausted from the weekend. I'm doing meetings. That's not the best time. Tuesday is sermon day. I'm buried in sermons prepping. It's not the best day. Wednesday afternoon, I'm done with the sermon. That's a good time. Thursday is a really, really good time. So if a team member is approaching me, timing really matters if they look at my schedule. Then when you meet with your leader, be prepared. Value their time. If you're pitching an idea, I'd recommend you have it written down. You have an agenda. We had a guy on our team that asked my assistant a while back. They said, "Could I have seven minutes "of Pastor Craig's time"? Well, this wasn't a guy that I'd met before but he wrote down the three bullet points he wanted to talk about, gave it to my assistant and asked for seven minutes. I thought that's rather intriguing. His ideas were good. They were typed out and organized.

So I took the meeting. He sat down and started his stopwatch and you know, on his iPhone and the timer and at seven minutes into the meeting, he had done a great job. He said, "Well, my time is up "and so I wanna respect your time "and I'm gonna, you know, if you want to know any more, "ask me questions". So I said, "No, no, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. "That's a good idea". He came in organized. He was respecting my time and so I took up about another 20 minutes of his time because I wanted to hear more. What happened? He came in very, very prepared. A lot of times that doesn't happen. People come in and waste your time. Show up late. They're not organized. Timing matters. Timing matters. Timing matters. Number three, motives matter. If you wanna influence up, examine your motives first. Any time you wanna bring an idea, help change the organization, approach with an attitude to serve. Your only motivation has to be to push the mission forward.

If you wanna be noticed, you wanna be seen. You wanna be promoted. If you have any self-centered selfish motivation that's gonna dilute the purity and the power of what you wanna do. You come with a pure motive. You're never leading up to make yourself look better. You're never leading up to be a hero. You're never leading up to make someone else look stupid. You're leading up with pure motives. Now, when you're doing this with the right motives, this is really important. Don't just point out problems but bring solutions. Don't just point out problems but bring solutions. Let me tell you something about your supervisor and I promise you, this is true. He or she prefers hearing from someone who has potential solutions to someone who just sees problems. Again, let me just say that. If you only come in, this is wrong, this is wrong. What are we gonna do about this? If you're only pointing out problems without bringing solutions, you're gonna be very, very annoying.

When you come in and say, well, I see a challenge and here's two ideas that might address it. Suddenly you might have the ear of the person who is over you. Even if your idea is not perfect, even if it's never implemented, it shows your thinking. It shows you care. And a lot of times a decent idea leads to a great idea. Don't just point out problems, bring solutions. I remember years ago when we had a problem, we couldn't baptize all these people and it was a real problem. The service was rushed and someone came in with an idea and they said, "What if we had a big pool "and baptize multiple people". Then someone else said, "Oh yeah. "And then what if we actually did that during worship, "we worshiped, as you know, "dozens of people were being baptized". And we put them being baptized up on the screen and we made it a big celebration. Well, this was a problem that someone saw. They brought a solution. It was a pretty good idea. Someone else added to it and suddenly what was a problem is now a great opportunity and we had a breakthrough idea and can baptize thousands of people and have an amazing experience, why? Because someone saw a problem and brought a solution and what did they do, they lead up and made the organization better.

Remember, just because you have an idea, you don't wanna come across with a critical heart. There's a massive difference between thinking critically and being critical. Doesn't mean you don't think critically but you cannot have a critical attitude. Motive matters. Motive matters. Motive matters. What else matters? Number four, initiative matters. Initiative matters. If you wanna gain trust and influence, what can you do? Lighten your leader's load. Lighten your leader's load. If you see something that needs to be done, ask your supervisor, hey, can I take that from you? Could I help you with that? Would you mind if I did something to help make your world a little bit easier. Now here's what you don't wanna do. Don't go up to your boss and say, "Boss, I don't have enough to do. "Can you think of something I can do to help you"? At that time point right now, your boss is looking at you going, you know what? You have no idea. You just gave me something else to do by thinking of something for you to do to help me. You might jot this down.

The best team members don't need to be told what to do because they intuitively find important things to do. This is so big. The best team members don't need to be told what to do. They intuitively find important things to do. If you're always finding a way to lighten your leader's load, your leader is gonna be very grateful. You're gonna have tremendous influence. You may jot this down. If you're willing to do what others won't do, you will earn influence others don't have. Let me say it again. If you're willing to do what others won't do, you will earn influence others don't have. Give an example, in our organization there's a team member. Her name is Kendra and she's distant from me in the organization. I wouldn't normally interact with her a lot. And a while back, she emailed my assistant and said, "Hey, I see that Craig's teaching "on such and such. "If I put some ideas on paper, just maybe to help out, "would that be okay"? And I said, "You know, absolutely".

So she sent an email with ideas on the subject I was teaching on and her thoughts were truly brilliant, brilliant. I used a couple of them in the weekend message and so the next week she said, "Well, it was amazing you used them. "Do you mind if I do that again"? I'm like, "Do I mind? "Would you do that every single week"? Well, here's what happened. Now whenever I get in a tough spot, I'll just email Kendra and say, "Hey, can you give me your thoughts on this"? I call it the brain dump. Her brain is so smart. Like, would you just write the first thing that comes to your mind on this subject, this idea, this scripture and then just send it to me. And by 8:00 AM the next day, she'll do that. She's done it again and again. What happened? She saw something that she could do to lighten my load, to add value to the organization. She offered it and now we have a very close relationship. She has tremendous influence, not only in my life but in our whole church, why? Because she intuitively found something important to do and it now really makes a big, big difference in the organization.

What does she have in my life as a leader? She has access. Access equals influence. Access equals influence. If you serve your leader, you'll have more access. If you have more access, you'll have more influence. What matters? Well, number three, motives matter. Number four, initiative matters. Number five, truth matters. Truth matters. If you're always a yes person, I promise you, you will lose credibility, why? Because truth always trumps flattery. Truth always trumps flattery. As a leader you need to understand that the more successful you become, the more difficult it will be to find people to tell you the truth. Sounds crazy but this is very, very true. Take it to the bank. The more successful you become, the bigger your organization gets, the more influence you have, the more difficult it will be to find people to tell you the truth, why? Everyone starts to tell you what they think that you want to hear. The higher you rise, the more people are gonna tell you exactly what you wanna hear.

That's why those who care enough to tell the truth are incredibly valuable. What happens when someone tells you the truth. Don't ever penalize them. Don't ever write them off. Don't say that was stupid. Don't distance yourself from them. If they tell you a hard truth about yourself to make you better and you're the point leader, man say thank you. As difficult as it may be to hear the truth sometimes it's the truth that changes, it's the truth that sets us free. Then give them public credit. Say hey, so-and-so on the team told me this about my leadership and it was hard to hear but man did it make a big difference? And what you're doing there is you're giving others permission to know it's actually safe to approach the leader and to tell them the truth. Give them public credit for what they've done.

Now, someone asked me one time, what was one of the most important moments in the history of my organization? I lead a church now in 25 locations, a lot of people and such and we've been blessed to do some kind of creative things. What was the most important moment in your church? A lot of people would think, whenever we gave away free resources and now that was actually a big, big deal. Some would think it was when we went to video teaching. That was actually, it kind of helped be a groundbreaking season for churches around the world. Some people say when you did multi-site, that was another groundbreaking time. Some might assume I'd say, when we were able to create the YouVersion Bible app, which has impacted hundreds of millions of people now.

One of the most important moments in the church was, years ago when a staff member named Jerry Hurley, back when we had probably five staff members or so lead up. One of the most important moments in the history of the church was when Jerry Hurley, who's still with me to this day, years and years and years and years ago lead up. Our church was probably two years old. We had probably five staff members at the time and what did Jerry do? He was five years older than me. He had been a district manager for Target stores. He had a lot more experience than I did. I was a little bit nervous, intimidated by him because he was such a great leader, he was amazing. We had him on our team. He joined our team and the very first day I was doing a funeral and he said, "Hey, can I carry your Bible "and can I carry your stand for you"? I was like, oh my gosh, this guy I respect is serving me. What did he do? He always loved me. He always honored me. He always had my back. He had access. He had trust and because of that, he had influence.

One day, Jerry looked at me and he said, and he built me up. He said, "Craig, you're a great leader. "You cast vision. "You've got, you know, you inspire people". And he said, "But you are, you're so hands on, "you're actually controlling so much "that we can't get anything done". And he was loving but he told me a very harsh critique of my leadership. And he said something along the lines of, you will become the ceiling of this organization but if you'll trust me and trust others to do what we can do, I promise you if you'll let go, we can build an organization that can impact tens of thousands of lives. Well, I heard it. I heard it. I was a control freak and I was not empowering the people around me.

One of the most powerful moments in the history of the church was when someone who was under my leadership, served me with integrity and told me the truth. My controlling nature was getting in the way of the growth and if I would just let go and trust and empower some people around me, we could have an organization that would make a massive difference. To this day I give Jerry honor for leading up because we would never be doing what we're doing today had someone not lead up. Wherever you are in your organization, you can make a difference. You don't need a title to make a difference. All you need is the right heart, the right insight and you can make a difference.

Well, I hope this content is helpful to you because the good news is, you're a leader. You have influence and wherever you are in your organization, you can make a difference and you can lead up. Let's look at three application questions, some assignments to help you apply this content. Thought number one. Assignment number one. Of the five factors that matter. Now, remember what we talked about. We talked about showing honor. We talked about the appropriate timing. We talked about having the right motives. We talked about taking initiative. We talked about telling the truth. Of those five factors that matter, honor, timing, motives, initiative and truth. Which one do you need to grow in the most? Think about it and be honest as you assess your own ability to lead up.

Now, here's where the application comes. What is one practical thing you can do this week to improve in that area? For example, you may be tempted to point out problems but instead what you wanna do is you want to initiate a solution and so you're going to initiate. You're gonna find one place to add value this week. To lighten your leader's load or to bring a solution to a problem. So question number one. Of the five factors, which one do you need to grow in the most? What's one practical thing you can do this week to improve in that area? Second question, I want you to think about this. What's one area where you see potential for improvement in your organization and what can you do about it? If you wanna lead up from wherever you are, what is one area in your organization where you see potential for improvement and what can you do about it?

Now, notice the way I asked this question and this is really important. What you're not doing is you're not just pointing out problems. If you do that, you're gonna come across like a critic but what you're doing is you're seeing opportunities to improve, to add value, to make things better. What can you do about it? Now, again, go back to our big assignments. What you're gonna wanna do is, you're gonna wanna look at your leader's rhythms. You gonna wanna find out when your leader needs his or her load lightened and when they might be more open to hearing your ideas. When you see their rhythms and when you have an idea for improvement, you'll come with that right spirit, with a spirit of honor, with good timing, with the right motives, by taking initiative and telling the truth and saying, hey, I see an area potentially that we could improve. We could make a bigger difference. We could make more profit. We could do whatever the mission of your organization is. And then you bring that idea. You're adding value. And so ask yourself what potential area do you see where you could add value? You could bring improvement and what are you gonna do about it?

Now, the third one, I'm gonna talk directly to those who are point leaders. If you're the boss, you're over departments, you're over the organization, you're over the sales team, whatever. Here's what you have to remember and that is this. You can have control or you can have growth but you can't have both. So as a leader over an area, what is a specific area or responsibility you need to give up control in order to empower your team to lead up? This is really critical. What's something that you need to release? Something you need to trust to others. Something you need to let go of from power, your team members around you to effectively lead up. If you do too much, you will limit their leadership therefore you limit your organization.

As a leader, what is a specific area you to give up control in order to allow your team members to lead up? I hope this content is helpful to you. If it is please share on social media, invite others to be a part. Remember you can get the leader guide, go to We release a new teaching on the first Thursday of every month. Can't wait to share more content with you. Remember, you may feel a lot of pressure if you're in charge of everything, if you're new on the job, you still feel pressure but don't overwhelm yourself with this need to always get it right. Just show up. Be real. Care about people. Be clear. Have a really clear mission and point people toward it. Be yourself. We say it all the time, because people would rather follow a leader who's always real than one who's always right.
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