Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast: Leading Up, Part 1


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Thank you for joining the Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast! In this episode, we're going to tackle our listeners' most commonly asked question: "How do I lead when I'm not in charge?" Why is this question so important? Because no organization will ever be what it could be without honest, upward communication.

"No organization will ever be what it could be without honest, upward communication." Tweet this quote!

You do not have to be in charge in order to lead. It's the biggest myth about leadership.

If you're on the front lines, you see things others don't—you have a unique perspective. You have ideas that could make a big difference. You are thinking of solutions to problems some people don’t even know exist. Leading up will not only help your organization, but it will eventually help you, because your ability to lead up now will help determine your ability to move up later.

Let's break it down into two categories. First, there’s positional power—that's power based on someone's title or experience. Positional power is not what it used to be. More importantly, there's personal power. Personal power is based on what a group thinks about a person. Even if you lack positional power, you can lead up by serving up! If you want influence, care about people. Love them. Help them improve.

Leading up can be risky. If you lead in the wrong way, you can get some negative labels and lose personal power.

There are five things that matter when you're leading up. Today, we'll talk about two of them.

1. Honor matters.

Honor publically results in influence privately. If you want to be over people, you need to learn to be under them.

Don’t forget: "Respect is earned. Honor is given." Tweet this quote!

If you don’t honor your boss, supervisor, business owner, or pastor, you might do everyone a favor and find someplace else to work.

2. Timing matters.

Look at the rhythms of those you serve. Value their time. Schedule a meeting, and keep it short and focused. Have a written agenda. If you are going to lead up, make sure the time is right.

Remember, you don’t have to know it all to be a great leader!


Here's an exercise you can do to grow as a leader—ask your team these questions:

  1. What is something specific you can do to increase your personal influence with people in your organization?
  2. What are three things you can do to show honor by serving up?
  3. If you are the point leader, what are three things you can do to give your team specific opportunities to help your organization by sharing their wisdom with you?


I’ve heard two quick mentions of journaling on your podcast. You said you could kick yourself for not starting sooner. Could you go into a little depth about how and why you journal?

Most people I respect and admire journal. I tried for years but I always stopped. What I do now is a five-year journal with short entries. Writing short entries helps me stay consistent. You can see year over year results when you stay consistent for a long period of time. You remember special moments, reflect on what you're learning, you stay accountable to your goal, you can jot down and test theories, and you gain perspective.

I’m a head baseball coach at local high school with six assistant coaches and about 50 players in my program. I find myself wondering who I should focus on more. Do I build my coaches or do I build my players? Or is there a balance?

The easy answer: both. The more nuanced answer: it depends. How good are your coaches? Are they experienced? What about your players? What are your gifts? My gut is to tell you to focus more on your coaches. As leaders, we don’t just lead followers. We lead leaders. Then one day we lead teams of leaders who lead teams of leaders. Never neglect or ignore your players, but I think you’ll have a better result if you are coaching those who are coaching others.

Have a question for Craig? Email him at leadership@life.church.