We live in a world obsessed by “leadership” development. I’m all for it, although I’m somewhat dismayed at the sheer number of leadership books, seminars, blogs, conferences, and more. What I’d actually like to see would be more training in how to be a great #2 person. I’ve been thinking about that since the passing of Cliff Barrows, the virtual #2 man behind the Billy Graham organization for so many years. Many knew him as the crusade music director, but throughout his career, he was so much more.
I only met Cliff a couple of times casually, although it was his job to approve a TV special we produced for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association many years ago. Word was, it was a little too cutting edge (meaning: weird) for him, so he almost shut down the project. But by the grace of God, after his wife was moved to tears after accidentally screening the project, she stepped in to save it. When it was finally broadcast, The Los Angeles Times reported it was the most watched Billy Graham TV special program in history.
And I’ll never forget it was his willingness to trust his wife that led to that program being broadcast.
The remarkable thing about Cliff was his eagerness to do anything and everything for the sake of Billy’s vision. Notice I said “Billy’s vision.” Being number two means that your dream may be set aside to make #1’s vision happen. But with a great team, #2 sees the potential of the long play.
I had the opportunity to see a great #2 in action in Bob DeWeese, Associate Evangelist for Oral Roberts. Back in the day, it was never about Bob. He was happy to work behind the scenes making things happen for the bigger vision.
In nearly every great church, nonprofit, ministry, or business, there’s a vital #2 person working, and without them, those organizations would struggle. Having seen a number of them in action throughout my career, here’s a few characteristics that make a #2 person so critical:
1) They’re able to subdue their ego, dreams, and plans for a great #1. Sure they have their own ideas and vision, but they understand the importance of working toward a larger goal.
2) There is an extraordinary level of trust between a great #1 and a great #2. With the best teams, there isn’t jealousy, grudges, or ego battles, they know how to work in harmony, and it comes from a deep-seated trust.
3) The #2 person is willing to take the day to day hits, so that #1 can focus on the bigger picture. A senior pastor, CEO, or other top leader is there because he or she has a big vision and goal. If they spend all day dealing with routine, day to day issues, that vision will never be fulfilled.
4) The #2 is often more practical than #1. You’ll find that #2 people are usually more detail oriented and organized.
5) Finally, great #1 and #2 teams always share the victory. The fastest way to create division is to force a #2 to do the hard “grunt” work during difficult times, and then when the victory happens, #1 takes all the credit. It’s a team effort, and great #1’s are the first to admit it.
If you’re the top person, value your #2. And if you don’t have one, make finding one a priority.
And if you’re the #2 in your organization, know this – you’re the foundation that allows #1 to soar. Without your regular, day to day leadership, your organization would never be able to fulfill the vision.
Have you had the experience of seeing a great #1 and #2 work together? I’d love to hear about it.