I Am Second


May 09, 2017

I am Second


I am second. No, it’s not religious humility or self-deprecation. I’m literally second.

I am a second born twin in the shared role of first child. I am the second wife to my husband. I’m the second mother to my kids. I am second in my role at work. I am second. Quotes like, “Either you're first or you're nothing,” and “Second is the first place loser,” reinforce the belief that secondary and subsidiary roles are insignificant.

They aren’t. In fact, they are needed. In life, liberty, and the pursuit of Jesus, you can’t lead if you don’t know how to follow.

In the business world, church life, or home domain, leadership can be identified by focusing on certain skills or characteristics by people leading in front. But if leadership is influencing people, we each have a powerful role to play as we mobilize and influence people in all spheres of our life.

Being second doesn’t mean I abdicate my responsibilities or influence because I am not leading at the front or making the final decision. Leading as second means we harness the collective power of the team to support the main vision or objective, whether that is in your family, church, or boardroom.

For example, I can’t stay on budget to save my life, so my husband manages our finances. (My idea of budgeting is buying a gorgeous purse and surviving off of celery and saltines for the month.) When I think we should do this or buy that, I give my opinion, but understand that he’s responsible for the cash flow of Casa Olthoff. He isn’t controlling or selfish in his decisions because he wants me to help and steer the vision for our family, but incurs the weight of making sure we are fiscally responsible.

If we understand that we are contributing to something larger than just ourselves, it calibrates our heart and attitude. We cultivate purpose, values, and mission when we move together and willingly submit to the collective whole.

Leading second is purposeful not accidental. We step intentionally into our role in domestic decisions, boardroom policies, or academic pursuits. We lead purposefully, not accidently.

Leading second is collaborative and cooperative. We build family/team/coworkers to lean in and build the collective vision, instead of building individual agendas.

Leading second is not abdicating our responsibility because of our position or title. You may never get the recognition, but you get to speak into the vision and further the mission.

Leading second is not passive. Whether you are an intern, student, stay-at-home mom, or new hire, you are part of the decision making process whether you want to be or not. You might not have the biggest vote or loudest voice, but don’t sit idly by and watch the vision happen; you make it happen.

Leading second is not an excuse to do little because you are new, shy, or don’t have a corner office. Laziness and inattention are by-products of people who don’t see their value or care to change.

Ultimately, we are all second. Paul, an apostle and amazing leader, summed it up best: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We are all second to the One, followers to the greatest leader of all. When you learn to carry the vision, you will learn to lead the vision. But you need to be willing to learn, listen, and lean into being second. Learning to follow will prepare to you lead.