Three Indispensable Characteristics of the 2nd Lieutenant

Business ManIt was in 2004 that I came to a major crossroads in my leadership journey. It was not my first, and hasn’t been my last, but it was a big one! The growth of the church I had led since 1996 had exceeded my expectations…and my ability to lead in the same way I was accustomed. We had experienced an 18% annual growth rate, growing from 200 to over 1100 weekly worshippers in eight years. With the growth of my paid and volunteer teams I soon came to the realization I needed an Executive Pastor (2nd Lieutenant) to help. My other option was to resign my position and go to a smaller, less stressful ministry setting!


I made the commitment to change my leadership style and search for the right person for this new role. What were the essential qualities I needed to look for in that person? I asked other staff members to help in the search. Character, Competence, and Chemistry are essential for every team member, but what else was essential for that specific role?


1. Humility.

Unlike the army where a 2nd lieutenant may have an expectation of promotion, a strong second in command in a corporate, business, or church setting needs the ability to serve with excellence “behind the scenes”. The willingness to avoid the limelight personally, and help their leader succeed and shine brightly requires a great sense of humility, and contentment where they add the greatest value to the organization.

2. Strategic and Detail Oriented.

The most common need of a visionary leader is someone to connect the nuts and bolts from the blueprint. It is rare that a visionary leader possesses that ability him/herself.  Visionary leaders typically do not think in terms of “how” but “what and why.” The “what and why” is missional and philosophical, and is in line with “big picture” thinking.  However, the “how” is practical, and is in line with strategy and details.


3. Must be a Manager of Leaders.

Some might call this “ego-juggling.” Organizations large enough to have a 2nd lieutenant almost always have multiple strong competent “eagles” on the team. GREAT organizations have many! Managing these people with their various personalities, strengths, and weakness is a challenge, but an absolute must. They thrive best with a clear vision, open communication, mutual respect, and freedom with accountability. It’s a unique person who can create such an atmosphere.


Since July 2004 I have been blessed to have such a person to help me lead our teams successfully.  I’m grateful!


What other indispensable qualities does a “2nd Lieutenant need?

2 thoughts on “Three Indispensable Characteristics of the 2nd Lieutenant”

  1. What about a backbone? Or, someone who’s not afraid to challenge you? I once read that the reason Michael Jordan hasn’t been able to succeed at being the president of a NBA team (below .500 win percentage) is because he was so use to hearing “Yes” as a player. He was Michael Jordan, who was going to say “no” to him? On the court he was the best player, no one could stop him. As a leader in the front office, not so much. All great leaders need someone or a group of people who’s not afraid to say “I’m not sure if that’s the best way”. And all great leaders shouldn’t be afraid of this. They should actually welcome it. You can’t surround yourself with “Yes” men and women and expect to succeed. You need some folks you trust and that will tell you if your idea stinks.

    1. Absolutely Joseph! That healthy and respectful tension is essential in this unique relationship. t’s much like a marriage where disagreement and commitment go hand in hand to develop the best marriage. Excellent insight and thanks for your input!

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