Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson--consultants,
trainers and second-chair leaders themselves--give
helpful insights for senior executives and their
vital seconds-in-command. They are authors of
Leading from the Second Chair, one of
the newest books in the Leadership Network Publications
series, produced with Jossey-Bass.
ADVANCE: What motivated you to address
the topic of second-chair leadership?
AUTHORS: No organization can thrive if it is operating
with the model of a single "superstar" leader
at the top. While there is plenty of agreement with
this in theory, many second-chair leaders continue to
be frustrated in their roles.
Most leaders in the local church are not the senior
leader of the organization. Yet most of the leadership
resources produced for the local church are written
for the senior leader. We wanted to begin a conversation
about what leadership looks like when you are a subordinate
and also a leader.
What new learning will we find in this book?
AUTHORS: In a sense, almost everything we say
is new because there is such a dearth of material
on this subject. We describe the opportunities
and challenges that are specifically unique to
those in second-chair roles. Our contention is
that every second-chair leader deals with the
tensions of three apparent paradoxes: 1) subordinate-leader;
2) deep-wide; and 3) contentment-dreaming. The
successful ones learn to embrace both ends of
ADVANCE: Tell us a little more about these
AUTHORS: Each is rich with implications for second-chair
leaders. They must be subordinate to the top leader
yet lead in their own right. They should be deep
in their expertise but wide in
perspective. And they must be content in their jobs
yet remain enthusiastic about their dreams for the future.
In the contentment-dreaming paradox, we tend to think
it is our responsibility to pursue a dream as soon as
God places it in our hearts. That often leads a second
chair to resign from a current position or take actions
that are seen as insubordinate.
ADVANCE: What would you suggest as an alternative
for second-chair leaders?
AUTHORS: Scripture shows that we often need to wait
on God. The question for each second-chair leaders is,
"Will you choose to stay and grow and excel as
you wait on God's timing?" Thriving in the contentment-dreaming
paradox and realizing God's dream for your life is possible
if you remain faithful and maintain a long-term perspective.
ADVANCE: Which readers are in the bulls-eye of
your target audience?
AUTHORS: Our intended audience includes any first- or
second-chair leaders in the church--both paid staff
and volunteer leaders--and in other settings, such as
judicatory roles and other organizations. The first
chairs should read the book so that they can better
understand the heart of their second-chair leaders.
The second-chair leaders should read it because it will
provide them with a practical, biblical framework from
which to lead.
ADVANCE: What will surprise your readers?
AUTHORS: In our discussions with other second-chair
leaders, we were surprised by how many defied "conventional
wisdom," particularly in the career paths that
they chose. Some moved from first chair to second-chair
roles, or stayed in a second-chair position in very
difficult times. They all clearly showed that one can
thrive in the second chair.
We think that the biblical support we describe for second-chair
leadership will also surprise the reader. There is one
particular biblical character we can learn from in each
of the three paradoxes. This framework of the paradoxes
gives a new understanding to the biblical character's
ADVANCE: What do you hope the reader takes away
from your book?
AUTHORS: We hope every reader will find some practical
ideas to expand his or her leadership toolkit. Beyond
this, we hope the book will accomplish three things:
(1) offer encouragement, because the second chair is
a place of great potential; (2) promote perseverance,
because too many second chairs "bail out"
when things get tough; and (3) stimulate reflection,
because second chairs need to understand their own style
and the needs of the organization they serve.
Mike Bonem has more than 20 years of consulting experience
with first- and second-chair leaders in business, churches
and judicatories. He has been a second-chair leader
in local congregations and in business, and also has
written the book Leading Congregational Change.
Roger Patterson is the associate pastor of West
University Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, where he
has served for eight years. He is a second-chair leader
who loves to invest in the development of other leaders
for the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
The authors have launched a second-chair web site
and are interested in forming a community of second-chair
leaders. To order a copy of Leading from the Second
Chair, go to: www.leadnet.org.