July 10, 2020

Two Ways to Shine Brighter When There’s No Light from Leadership

My advice for carrying your own torch, standing up for your team, and promoting the values of your organization regardless of leadership's engagement.

Have you ever been in a position where you have to be the buffer between your team and upper management? I recently received a heartfelt message from one of my readers who I’ll call Jim for the purposes of this post. Jim was fighting the good fight. He was in a situation where the company’s leadership wasn’t providing direction, values or consistency that are typically embedded throughout any great culture. Instead, Jim found himself protecting his team from a detached leader while providing clarity and trustworthy communication on his own.

I feel for Jim, and I could tell by the tone of his message he was feeling the weight of the world at that moment. It’s no wonder. Setting organizational direction and supporting the pursuit of that path with consistency takes a village. Sadly, Jim’s situation isn’t unique. Many of us, at one time or another, can recall having to shine even brighter than the diffused light we get from the top.

What can you do when leadership isn’t clearly lighting the way? The tough answer is you have to bring your own torch. If you’re fortunate to be working within a positive workplace culture, a bad boss won’t last long because their dysfunction is eventually exposed. In the meantime, you must bridge the leadership gap by providing your team with a professional and consistent environment.


People are smart and can see what’s going on in the C-suite, but that’s not an open door to complain. Jim recognized this and said that his fight was to keep his amazing team together and provide the clarity they needed without negativity. Let your own ethical values shine if none have been espoused by the leadership. Project integrity in how you carry out your own responsibilities. Double down on communication if your team’s not getting it from above. Share how much you appreciate everyone’s contribution to the bottom line. 


Stability is paramount since its unlikely employees are experiencing it elsewhere. It’s not unlike the stability my wife created for our son when schools closed due to the pandemic. She knew it would help him if he could continue to grow with the help of structure. She enlisted a part-time teacher, student assistants, and volunteers to create a summer camp.

Together they implemented a daily schedule of lessons and activities for seven kids from the neighborhood. Consequently, these kids haven’t missed a beat. The workplace is no different. If there aren’t staff meetings, individual check-ins, or lunch on Fridays, hold your own. Your team will find they can focus more easily on their deliverables if they can count on consistency from you.

It’s a tough pill to swallow if you think about the support you could be getting, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to show your leadership chops. In a video I shared recently, I talk about controlling what you can. This is a prime example of doing just that—be the best buffer for your team because you can. You have a chance to make an impact in your own sphere. Keep shining your light, Jim, and thanks for reaching out.  

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1 Comment
  1. Faisal Mohammad

    Completely agree of bringing the own torch.. the issue arises is that a lot of times, that light of the torch is seen by the same leader who like to be in the shadows. When that happens, one feels threatened and will do anything to blow that torch and in the process one puts themselves at jeopardy and risk of retaliation. Building allies is what I have been doing along with bringing in that torch.

    Great read and very practical !!

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