In 31:14 we see Moshe taking the leaders of the army to task for failing to criticize and properly instruct their soldiers what to do in battle (regarding taking the booty and who to let live and who to kill). The passuk says Moshe got angry at them and Rashi explains that “This teaches that the entire corruption of the generation is attributed to the great men, since they have the power to rebuke.” (Translation by Tachash website).
This clearly shows that leadership is responsible for the general public’s attitude and behavior. We sometimes find situations in which criticism of leaders (be they Rabbonim or lay leaders) is defelected with the statement that they have other concerns and cannot always be the ones to lead the way on all issues. They say if it is right to do, do not wait for the Rabbonim.
I will not deal now with the issue of deciding on your own what is right to do or not. Obviously every case needs to be judged individually – sometimes it will be ok to do what you feel is right and sometimes it would be inappropriate without rabbinic approval.
However, this parsha seems to contradict that thought. The leaders are responsible at all times for instructing the people properly. If the great men do not rebuke, the people just don’t figure it out on their own, or even may extrapolate the wrong ideas from the lack of rabbinic response (e.g. if so and so did not say anything against it he must approve, etc..).
The leaders have an obligation to lead, all the time. No passing the buck.