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4 Strengths the Second Brings

We live in a society that worships personality. We worship, as heroes, the outgoing and exuberant head honcho. The #1.

Whether it’s a church’s pastor or the lead in a movie or the president of the United States. We worship the #1 role.

  • We name the entire entity after them. (You go to Andy Stanley’s church or work for the Obama administration or play for Peyton Manning’s team.)
  • They get all the credit. (And take the majority of the blame when things go poorly.)
  • They make a disproportionate amount of money. (Less so in politics, but more so in church ministry and corporations.)
  • We embody accomplishments to them personally. (We say “Herbert Hoover built that” or “The new Owen Wilson movie.”)
  • We create a fable about that person. (To the rest of the team, there is a strong story about that persons strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, likes, dislikes.)

Yet behind every movement, organization, company, and church which is getting anything done is a strong second-in-command. While the lead person is certainly important, particularly in a culture who worships the lead person, the second-in-command is truly the key to success.

Success is impossible without a great second-in-command. I’ve learned that the #2 spot is actually the most vital in any organization when it comes to actual measurable results. I don’t care how dynamic and vibrant and wonderful the #1 person is… if you don’t have the right #2, forget it.

4 Strengths the Second-in-Command Brings to the Organization

  1. Maintains the vision. Having a dynamic leader is a real pain in the organization. Seriously, if you don’t have a strong second-in-command, one who doesn’t mind pushing back against the strong leader, the vision of the organization will never persist. This is particularly true in Christian organizations… when they constantly change strategies and drop in new objectives all the time, I know they have an unchecked visionary leader and no one in the office running things.
  2. Drives tasks and details. The #2 person is the get-stuff-done person. Period. When things aren’t getting done you know the #2 person has gotten mired in meetings or been on vacation or whatever. When you see the person with the big smile cutting the ribbon, you’ll see the #2 person over their shoulder with dark circles from a lack of sleep. They were the person who bought the ribbon at 2 AM.
  3. Manages the team. Even though I’ve never had the title “chief of staff” that’s really what the #2 person does. More than a task master, they are a master manager of what really goes on with the team. They are the one who tells the #1 what’s going on in people’s lives, who they can count on, who needs to go, etc. When you see that a company is a great place to work, you know they have a great #2.
  4. Provide Stability. The second-in-command is the designated smoother of things over. At multiple stops in my career I’ve been the second to a real a-hole of a dynamic leader. It’s much more acceptable in corporate life than it is in church work, by the way. But that’s just how it goes a lot of times. The #1 person was born into the right house or, in church work, is good on stage. But that doesn’t mean they can lead a team or cast vision or get stuff done. For that they need a #2.

The Kicker

Since I hang out with youth workers most of them are #2 in their organization by default. Even if they don’t have the title of #2 person, even if on the organization chart they don’t appear as #2, they are seen as the #2 person.

Becoming comfortable in that role, thriving in it, feeling called to it, and even giving up the concept of one day becoming the #1 person… is all key to the long-term health of a local church.

If you want to dive into this dynamic as a team, I highly recommend Joel Mayward’s book Leading Up.

4 Responses to 4 Strengths the Second Brings

  1. jen m November 4, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    It was sometime in my 20s that I realized that the #2 spot, or “little buddy” as I call it, is really the role that I am made for. It where my giftedness lays, and I am continually encouraging all of my visionary friends to find a solid little buddy, because usually (but not always) the skill sets don’t overlap. Thanks for championing the #2s!

  2. Jason Chenoweth November 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Adam, as a long time student pastor and now an executive pastor, I’ve sat / still sit in a #2 role my whole career (even though my personality profiles all point to a #1 seat). I agree with all you said, but it’s so tough serving behind the scenes in a healthy way. I think often God asks men and women to sit in a #2 (or #3 or 4) seat so that we can better see Him work. When we choose to subject our gifts and abilities to His causes instead of striking out on our own simply to have a #1 seat, God honors it. It’s well worth the investment if God calls us to it. Thanks for the encouragement, many of us needed to hear it.

  3. Matt Flinner (@MFlinner) November 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Thank you. Thank you for reminding me of my place in the story of our congregation and to see my jealous side and envy. The four strengths are wonderful guidelines for me to ponder and work on. Blessings.

  4. Ben Patterson (@bentremendous) November 7, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    The church leadership model that North Coast Church operates with redefines the role of the one man band. It’s a whole different type of leadership from the Senior Pastor role. We are learning more about that “Trinity Model” and on the road to implementation.

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