Second Chairs & See-Saws

If you are in the second chair, you have not been called to a place of comfort; you have been called to a place of leadership.

This quote is from one of my all-time favorite books entitled Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your Dreams (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson.

Leading at any level is difficult, but being a second chair leader – that leader that isn’t the CEO, Pastor, President, etc, but is the next tier of leadership directly serving these types of first chairs – has it’s own unique set of challenges. In my opinion, most second chair leaders have to balance many of the challenges of strategic planning, future development and business administration details with an awareness and intentionality to relationally leading the staff on a daily basis. The Second Chair is the leader that the team needs feedback, encouragement and direction from on a daily basis.

But, the see-saw of going back and forth from business to staff relations can make any good leader a little dizzy and unfocused.

Because I’m wired to be “task first”, I have to be very intentional to see-saw over to the relational side. The heaviness of the business, management and develop stuff can easily keep me grounded on that side if I let it. Remember when the big kid would get on the see-saw and keep you dangling in the air? Yep, that’s me. I’m the big kid on the business side holding down the see-saw while my staff are dangling in the air on the relational side dieing for a chance to come back down.

Odds are we all lean to one side or the other. Most of us are wired to be “task” or “people” first. Striking a balance between the two and having the discernment to know when to lean into one or the other, is a leadership skill that is developed over time.

Since I lean to the “task” side, I have created a few questions that help me know when and how to see-saw back to relationship.

My relationship questions:

  • What does the team need from me today? Encouragement? Direction? A listening ear? Practical help?
  • What tasks do I have and how can I take care of them so that I’m energized and able to focus on the team?

If you are naturally a relationship person who needs help see-sawing over to the task side more consistently, here are a few questions you might ask yourself:

  • What is one thing I can do today that will help better prepare our organization and staff for the future?
  • What is the best time and place for me to work on my leadership tasks and how can I adjust my schedule to create intentional time to work on these priorities?

Here’s the deal, the see-saw will never be perfectly balanced. Remember how hard you tried to scoot up or scoot back on the see-saw to balance the weight so both you and your friend would be floating in mid-air? A lot of work for short reward.

Embrace the see-saw… just remember to not get stuck on one side or the other!

How about you? Which side of the leadership see-saw do you have the potential to get stuck on? Task or Relationship?

You may also like


  • Lindsey_Nobles February 25, 2010  

    Great post! I'm still wondering if I am more relationship or task-oriented….Hmmmm.

  • Casie Stevens February 25, 2010  

    Love this mental picture! I’m the big kid on the business side, too:)

  • uberVU - social comments February 26, 2010  

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by jennicatron: Second Chairs & See-saws. New blog post: #fb…

  • Jan Owen February 26, 2010  

    definitely relationship. no question about it.

  • alece February 26, 2010  

    i am definitely more task-oriented. it takes conscious effort to be relational in the midst of "work" – and i know i know i know i need to get better at that.