When You’re a Leader but You’re Not Leading

Here are reasons why leaders aren’t leading and advice to help you start leading.

I talk with so many younger people, and some my age, who want to be in leadership. They may feel they’ve been passed up, haven’t been given their chance (or second chance) or they are patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for a place to lead.

I understand. If you are geared to leadership, or have your eye on being a leader, nothing quite satisfies you until you get to do what you think you’re ready to do. And, even what you feel God has called you to do.

If this is your story, in my observation, there are some common reasons you aren’t yet leading. Perhaps understanding them can help you in this season, so I’ll follow each potential reason with some advice.


1. You Don’t Have Anything Or Anyone To Lead.

You might even say you would lead if someone gave you an opportunity.

My advice: Find something to lead! The world is full of problems. Choose one of them you are most passionate about and start leading. Motivate people toward finding or working a solution. Lead strong in an area of need with vision and passion and others will follow. We need you.

2. You Are Afraid.

You really want to lead, but you fear you may not have what it takes. That’s a common emotion for all leaders.

My advice: Press into the fear. Pray hard, lean strong on God, but lead. This is what leaders do. Leading takes people into the unknown. Remember it’s natural to be afraid. Be willing to walk by faith. No one needs a leader if the path is clearly defined and risk-free.

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3. You Had a Setback and Gave Up.

You tried leading and it was hard. You got hurt. Perhaps you even failed, so you quit. Now you sit back waiting for others to lead.

My advice: Get up and try again. The best leaders have failed many times, perhaps more times than they have succeeded. That’s what makes them a success. Someone said success is a collection of what you learn through failures. Leaders try again and again until something sticks. They get back in the game. You’ll motivate others by your return to leadership.

4. You Want to Lead, but Don’t Think You Know How.

You don’t think you ever learned the secrets of leadership. You have more questions than answers. You’re waiting until you have more answers than questions.

My advice: Join the school of leadership. Leaders are all around you. And, every good leader is still learning too. The best leaders never quit learning. They are still figuring it out daily. So join in the fun. Watch, listen, read and ask questions. It’s what leaders do. You can learn skills of leadership if you are teachable.

5. You Think You Don’t Have Authority to Lead.

You feel you are in a stifling environment. No one is looking to you to lead.

My advice: Either learn to “lead up”—influencing people who are supposed to lead you—or find a place that values your input. The world is changing and the newest and healthiest environments allow people to grow in leadership. Or, learn to lead within your own context. If you’re in a ministry, lead volunteers the best you know how. Or, find a cause outside your work environment and be a leader there. Be the best where you are today. The experience will shape you for future assignments.

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Just a few thoughts. But, here’s a final one. If you feel you’re supposed to be a leader—and you’re currently not—there can be no more excuses. Lead. It’s what leaders do.