Leading From The Second Chair - Review

We're in the process of searching for a couple of critical staff positions at the church where I serve. Both are significant roles with seats at the table where decisions are made. They're "second chair" positions. So, in preparation to make those hires I read the book "Leading from the Second Chair" by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson.

This  book sets out to help leaders be better followers. Almost every leader follows someone, so almost every leader can benefit from this book. How can a strong leader lead while he follows? Bonem and Patterson provide some help.

Bonem and Patterson address three primary paradoxes that the second chair leader has to face: the subordinate/leader paradox, the deep/wide paradox, and the contentment/dreaming paradox. How can a leader lead when he has to be subordinate to someone else? How can a leader balance the tension between a deep understanding of an organization along with a broad scope of responsibility? How can leaders be content with the direction the first-chair takes when they have dreams of their own? Those are the questions this book answers extremely well.

Bonem and Patterson's book is replete with real-life examples, mostly from the church world, of second chair leaders who have had significant ministry from a chair other than the first chair. This makes the book easy to read and apply. It also contains a section at the end of each section written specifically to first chair leaders helping them understand how they can more effectively lead second chair leaders.

The one major weakness of the book is that throughout the book the authors pepper in stories about the biblical story of Joseph in order to make their points. It's a really distracting feature of the book because the connections feel contrived rather than natural connections to the biblical story. Joseph wasn't a second chair leader for much of his life that the book draws on; he was a slave or a prisoner. I certainly hope my future Executive Pastor doesn't relate too strongly to those parts of Joseph's story!

"Leading from the Second Chair" is a great book for anyone who serves in a role as a leader who reports to someone else. Though the primary focus of this particular book is for church leaders, the second chair leader in any organization will find it encouraging, stimulating, and thought-provoking as they seek to lead their organization even when someone else is in charge.