Every organization I have ever been a part of has experienced a perceived crisis of leadership. We all are continually looking for great leaders to navigate the complexities we face in our society, schools, businesses, churches and government. And yet there seems to be no end of books, blogs, podcasts and seminars on leadership. With so much available training and resource on the subject, why do we have a perceived shortage or crisis of leadership?

Could if be that while we are continually on the look out for the next great leader, we might be miss the undeveloped leadership that exists within our organizations already.

Perhaps the reason for this, is that almost all the books and teachings on leadership focus on the person at the top of a formal organization; the CEO, senior pastor, business owner, school principal or superintendent. Most of us however are not the point leader of an entire organization. The market for leadership material seeks to inspire us to achieve the top position in an organization, which is great. However we can so easily miss the fact that most of us are not in the top position and need to focus becoming more effective at the work of influencing and leading right where we are now. Great leaders, regardless of where they are in an organization, attract great leaders. If we want to solve the leadership crisis, the answer is to become a better leader right now, in our current position within the organization.

Recently, I came across a book called Leading from the Second Chair, by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson. They lay out, with incredible insight, a clear path to effectively leading from what they call the “second chair.” They define a person who effectively leads from a second chair as “a subordinate whose influence with others adds value throughout the organization.” This can be done from any place in any organization.

One thing you can do today to develop more catalytic leadership is to get and read this book.

The authors highlight three paradoxes a “second chair” leader must navigate every day, if we want to effectively lead from within. Each requires an ability to live with, prosper and even thrive within these tensions as they arise.

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

3 “Second Chair” Paradoxes:

  • Subordinate-Leader Paradox – Managing your relationships
  • Deep-Wide Paradox – Managing your work habits
  • Contentment-Dreaming Paradox – Managing your emotions

Each of these tensions are explored in the book with examples of how to effectively lead through each and have maximum impact on the organization as a result. As we learn tho navigate these three areas of tension, our influence and effectiveness will increase in a slow and steady way.

In addition to navigating the three paradoxes, Bonem and Patterson present four practices that can help a “second chair” leader become more effective. Each, when implemented elevate the impact of the leader who employs them. Choosing to consistently employ these practices will inevitably make us more valuable to the organization as well as more trusted by those who lead us.

4 “Second Chair Practices:

  • Be a Pulse Taker – Become an expert at building relationships that allow you to know what other people in the organization are thinking and feeling.
  • Be a Vision Amplifier – Taking time to know and understand the vision of the organization and senior leader better allows us to repeat, clarify and reinforce the vision in order to strengthen it throughout the organization.
  • Be a Leader Multiplier – Great leaders, regardless of position continually find more people how can be developed and join the mission. Second chair leaders lead by multiplying themselves.
  • Be a Gap Filler – Identifying gaps in the organization and the execution of the vision strengthen the organization and help elevate our influence.

Wherever you are in the organization, you can have profound impact, if you understand the role of a “second chair” leader. Check out this book for more ideas and tips for become the best leader you can be, right now.

If you have any other ideas to help us learn to lead effectively from where ever we are in the organization, I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “The 3 Leadership Tensions You Navigate Daily

  1. Jason I really appreciate this synopsis of te book and if others don”t have time to read it. This will make for wonderful challenge and conversation in our directors meetings I believe. Thank you for sharing it.

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