How 2nd Chair Leaders Lead Up

In working with leaders around the country one of the most frequently asked questions that I hear is, “How do I lead up?” In other words, second chair leaders are asking, “How do I support my leader while influencing them at the same time?” Below are six methods that the best second chair leaders I’ve met utilize to “lead up.”

No Surprises

Withholding information from your leader is a sure fire way to break trust, and trust is the foundation for all great relationships both personal and working. There should be a clear commitment to no surprises between a first and second chair leader.

Define Reality

For your leader to get where God has called them to go they need to have an accurate picture of where they are leading “from.” The first step in getting “there” is helping people become uncomfortable with “here,” even your leader. Your ability to accurately define reality for your leader, will help drive the pace of the organization and help everyone understand when you’re winning.

Understand the Values of your Leader

One of the fastest ways to build trust with your first chair leader is to demonstrate that you understand the vision and values (both organizational and personal) of your leader by proactively leading people and the organization in a direction and manner that reflects the vales and vision of your leader. Great second chair leaders see themselves as an extension of their leader.

Provide Opportunities

Great second chair leaders provide opportunities for their leader to experience success with the staff team and the organization at large. They prop their leader up and provide strength to their areas of weakness rather than exposing them.

Bringing Problems is a Problem

Your first chair leader deals with problems every day. They don’t need new ones, and they certainly don’t need to come from you. The best second chair leaders are solution oriented. They bring creative solutions and options to be implemented, not problems to be solved.

Lead with Questions not Statements

Invite the input and advice of your leader…early and often. Lead with questions that open up dialogue rather than making statements or demands of your leader, which is no way to get where you or they want to go.

Posted in Leadership

One Response to “How 2nd Chair Leaders Lead Up”

  1. Darren HErbold February 24, 2014 at 9:59 am #


    Love the post! Totally agree with it. Here’s some further dialogue that i know some encounter.
    I’d love to see what you and others think about the relationship between “No Surprises” & “Bringing Problems”

    Depending on the leader, some of them love hearing the “problems”. Now, that may highlight a further coaching/growth area of the leader, but sometimes I wonder if there is a fine line/tension between solving problems and not creating “surprises” in the very solutions we create. I think there is an important piece of having clear guiding values that direct how a second chair can go about solving some of the problems. There’s not a lot worse than solving a problem in a way that is contradictory to how your lead pastor would like it solved. Loss of trust and increased micro management would likely ensue. Even though I realize your list was not in order of priority, I do think every 2nd chair leader should spend a lot of time, at least initially, as you mentioned, having the values conversation. The reality is, in many cases, the lead pastor may not be even able to articulate some of those values, which offers a great starting point! It would be interesting for people to share resources or tools that help facilitate that conversation with their leaders. For instance, I know I have used a “leadership values” list before with people. I have the lead and 2nd chair, independent of each other, list their top 10 leadership values and then their bottom 5. That always seems to serve as a great conversation starter around values. Great post!. 🙂

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image