Currently, books on leadership are a dime a dozen. Everybody, it seems, has an opinion about what it means to be “the One at the top.” What scarcely anyone has noticed, however, is that
• The vast majority of leaders today are not “lead” leaders.
• The church that operates as “a genius with a thousand helpers” will not have
• Too many leaders focus on “moving up” as quickly as possible, & they miss the
opportunity to develop their gifts.
In Leading from the Second Chair, the authors do take note of these & other leadership realities. Their goal is not to diminish the role of “lead” leadership.
Rather, they helpfully broaden the discussion by developing the notion of leading from “the second chair.”
The authors turn to Joseph in the Old Testament as the model second chair leader. “At no point in his life did Joseph ever become the ‘senior’ leader,” they observe. “He always led under someone else’s leadership.” From Joseph, the authors conclude:
• Second chair leaders are leaders.
• Because of their position & by natural temperament, second chair leaders cannot
be passive about the future of their ministry. At the same time, their position seems
to limit their ability to change things for the better.
• A second chair leader’s role is not strictly based on the power & authority of
• God desires to use this experience in the second chair as a transforming season in a person’s life.
• In Christ’s Kingdom, all leaders are in the second chair in some respects, &
ultimately, all of us are in submission to the headship of to Christ.
“Whatever factors may have placed you in a position to be a second chair leader, you still have some choices to make.” For example:
1. Maximize major opportunities. In a typical week, much of our time is spent on
routine activities. Certain things have to be done, week in & week out, to keep the
organization moving forward. Less frequently, you have unique opportunities to do
something that stretches you as a leader & that can have tremendous benefit for
2. Face into the wind. Sometimes a major leadership opportunity comes our way &
we are tempted to run. The choice that a second chair must make is to pray first for
God’s wisdom, then to make the right decision, even if it is not easy.
3. Decide to thrive. Some people thrive in the second chair. Others only survive. The
latter are constantly looking for a ticket to something better—a new set of duties, a
better group of people to lead, a new boss. Those who thrive do so even in difficult
circumstances. The difference, & the focus of this final choice, is attitude.
This is an important book and I highly recommend it. It would be a great resource to help pastors & staff members or even pastors in healthy church networks to discuss.
Here are some questions you might find helpful to consider:
1. How well are you doing under someone else’s authority? What growth points is this experience surfacing?
2. Is the church or ministry you serve better because of your influence? What evidence do you have that this is the case?
3. In what ways do you positively affect the entire ministry, not just your piece,
4. What is your most needed leadership growth point this year? What specifically will
you do to make improvement in this area?
Leading from the Second Chair is 20% off here.
Reviewed by Jim Fann, EFCA Church Health Director