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?

Mike Bonem

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.

Roger Patterson
ADVANCE: 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 each.

ADVANCE: Tell us a little more about these paradoxes.

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 story.

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 (www.secondchairleaders.com), 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.