Steps to Leading If You Are Not A Leader (or even if you are)

Leadership is not gender exclusive – there are many leadership principles which cross gender and demographic lines.  Pastor Jeremy walks us through specific leadership strategies that all leaders can implement in their realm of influence, and shares the five steps every leader can apply.

Guest Writer:  Jeremy Johnson, Executive Pastor,

Village Church


There has been much written about leadership structures, models, approaches, the essential steps to being a great leader, and so on. But most of these are aimed at a small percentage of people. They’re aimed at leaders who manage teams of staff, who have to make organization vision decisions, protect from system-wide mission drift, or balance multifaceted corporate budget concerns.

The thing is, that’s not most of us. Instead, the kind of leadership most of us are engaged in isn’t so much top down, it’s sideways. So how do you become the type of person who excels at leading laterally?

I first came across the phrase “lateral leadership” while reading a Harvard Business Review article on the topic, written by Lauren Keller Johnson. It’s probably one of the most insightful and easily applicable leadership articles I’ve ever read and I’ve used its principles many times in my own life and with the teams I lead at Village Church.

Think about it: We very rarely lead by authority. Even when we have formal authority, studies show telling someone to do something that YOU want them to do isn’t a very effective approach. The classic book, How To Win Friends And Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, preaches that the way to get results is to make other people WANT to do something. So whether you are managing staff or collaborating with others, being able to lead through other means than demanding obedience is crucial to getting results.



Nothing happens without initiative. But don’t be fooled. It doesn’t always look like the loudest person in the room - that’s volume. Instead, initiative can be thought of as PROACTIVE RESPONSIBILITY. Give me a collaborator I can count on. That’s when great things happen. But to be an excellent lateral leader, this type of initiative must be taken in three areas:


At some point, goals, roles, and timelines must all be clarified if there is going to be any success. Who does this? In a collaborative environment it isn’t about dictating these things as much as leading the charge for clarity on them. When you take initiative to ensure that all ambiguity is eliminated, you not only help yourself, but you help the team and others will begin to trust you because you provide the clarity everyone needs.


You know who nobody respects as a leader? The person who shows up unprepared. It tells people you either don’t care or you don’t know. Both are absolutely sabotaging to lateral leadership. In fact, a person who is highly prepared (not rigid, but flexible—remember, this is not an exercise in control) will be seen as someone to follow by collaborators simply because they can be trusted. Why? Because they send the message that they DO care and that they ARE competent.


Goals are set, deadlines clarified, homework has been done, now it comes down to execution. The best lateral leaders take responsibility to see things through. They don’t delegate this responsibility, but they also don’t hold it too tightly. They simply realize that in a lateral collaboration the lines are blurry and the implementation management vacuum must be filled. This person leaves nothing to chance and makes no assumptions. They take initiative every step of the way, not to micromanage or hound their collaborators, but to take proactive responsibility.


Of course, proactive responsibility is not enough to make these three pieces come together beautifully. All of it must be based on a foundation of humility. This is where everything can easily fall apart. Without humility, the lateral leader is a shark who can’t be trusted or a know-it-all who no one wants to follow. Remember that the most effective leaders, the “level 5 leaders” as Collins puts it, are servants, not dictators. If you fail to serve you will become the ringleader who uses lateral leadership to poison the well. Don’t be that person!


The best leaders, whether in positions of authority or not, take proactive initiative to ensure  clear communication, comprehensive preparation and effective implementation all the while viewing their role as a servant to the team. Embrace this and watch your collaborations excel and more new leadership opportunities come your way.

#leadership #collaboration #humility #villagechurch #leadingwell #topleadershiptips

By Jeremy Johnson


As Executive Pastor, Sites & Communications at Village Church in Surrey, British Columbia, Jeremy leads diverse staff teams and is passionate about helping others reach their fullest potential

Anna Koehn