Three Essentials for Leaders Who HAVE Leaders (Part 1)

Listen Time ~19 Minutes

The job of second and third-chair leaders can be challenging and involves helping the people under them, while also representing the leader above them. In this episode, Pastor Mark Carter and special guest Melissa Labellarte discuss the role of second and third-chair leaders and explain how they can lead well, while also representing their first-chair leader, the organization, and Jesus accurately and effectively. 

Three Essentials for Leaders Who HAVE Leaders:

1. Remember that it is Jesus that you’re really representing.

2. Utilize DISCRETION when representing your leader or the organization.

3. Protect the vision when people are having doubts and difficulties.

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Three Essentials for Leaders Who HAVE Leaders (Part 1)


Carter: What up everybody. Welcome to the Bible Leadership Podcast. My name is Pastor Mark Carter and I got a question for you. Do you love leadership? I’ll bet you do. I know that I do, I love to read about it, I love to listen to podcasts about it, I love to go to conferences about it, but, I think that we’re in a dangerous place if our leadership is detached from what God is communicating to us through the scripture. See, when you’re leading for Jesus, we’re not just relying on leadership principles. We love them, we appreciate them, but we’re also seeking to be led where God is going in the way that God would have it done, so it requires attachment to Him through the Bible. The Bible teaches so much about leadership, and it should be our primary source of leadership knowledge, connected to the Holy Spirit. That’s why we say as leaders, we need to keep one hand on the steering wheel, and one hand on the Bible, so welcome to the podcast. Today we’re talking about three essentials for leaders who have leaders. Proverbs 13:17 says an unreliable messenger stumbles into trouble but a reliable messenger brings healing. I know that I want to be that kind of a messenger for Jesus and anybody else who sends me, and I’m guessing that you do too. See, I know that most of us are not necessarily the top person in charge, we may be what Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson refer to in their excellent book, Leading From the Second Chair as a second chair leader. You may be a second chair you may be a third chair and all that means is, you may lead some people but there’s still someone who’s bringing leadership to you. Bonem and Patterson point out that sometimes we’re leaders over some things, but under another leader and thus, we face unique challenges that include representing the organization, representing that other leader well, being careful how much information we reveal and managing the tension of both telling people things that are going to disappoint them, while still representing a heart of love to those very people. Man, it’s a hard thing, so the next two episodes, I’m going to be interviewing my assistant, Melissa Labellarte, in part because I think she faces, every day, some challenges that many of the rest of us face but we don’t get to talk enough about. I want to give you a heads up that this particular episode, we were experimenting with some new tech. In fact, the whole entire interview was kind of ad hoc; meaning, we weren’t really sure we were doing it, we were just kind of practicing, but I really felt like the content was so good that she was sharing I just wanted to share it with you. Even so, I apologize for the audio quality, it’s not where it usually is, but we’ll continue to take care of that. Hey, here’s what we’re discovering, if you’re a Christian leader then you represent Jesus and the things that He’s called you to steward. The Bible declares that we have the opportunity to use our influence to bring healing and refreshing to not only Jesus’s heart, but the hearts of others and even those whom we serve under so, I think we’re going to learn a ton. Let’s get after it. Here’s the first part of my interview with my assistant Melissa Labellarte.

Hey, waddup everybody? Welcome back. I’m here with my phenomenal assistant, Melissa Labellarte. Melissa, how long have you been my assistant?

Melissa: You know, I was actually thinking this through the other day, someone asked me that question. And I actually don’t really know, I think five years.

Carter: That feels right. Something like that.

Melissa: Something like that.

Carter: So, Melissa has not only been my sister, but simultaneously she’s been learning the lessons of how to lead well, how to represent Jesus, and how to represent me and the organization that she is a part of. And I was just thinking, there’s so many folks that they’re a leader that is related to other leaders and I just think that’s hugely important. I think most folks are not the first chair leader, they’re probably leaders of organizations. I know, there certainly are a lot of first chair leaders that are listening right now but there’s more probably that are in some way, a second chair, or a third chair, and they’ve got this hard job, and Melissa knows all about this, you gotta help the people who are under you, but you’ve also got to kind of represent your leader, and especially if they’re kind of a figurehead type of a leader. And you have to represent the organization as a thing, and so I think that’s really hard. And, you know, just talking to Melissa, over the past few years, I feel like she’s landed upon some helpful lessons that are going to be helpful to some of our listeners. So Melissa, what would you say as an assistant, what are some of the leadership lessons that might be helpful for those in the second chair who are trying to do the hard job of manage both their own stuff and representing the leader that is near them or above them?

Melissa: Yeah, you know, I think probably the things that I’ve learned are probably just the things I’ve gotten wrong several times. There are things that haven’t gone well that I either needed to repent for, or, you know, just eating a slice of humble pie about. I don’t know that I have all the answers and I definitely haven’t done everything right, but a few things have just kind of bubbled to the surface of things that just helped me make less mistakes. And so, one of those is just kind of remembering that as I’m representing someone else, really what I’m representing is Jesus. So the times that I’ve misrepresented, you know, the organization that I work for or misrepresented you, what really grieved my heart is that I’m misrepresenting the love of Jesus and people that I’m speaking to, you know, or interacting with. So, this is really starting to inform like, how I phrase my emails, like what I share on social media, how I interact in the community. There’s a saying that says, people will forget what you gave them or what you did for them, but they’ll never really forget how you made them feel, and so, I really been thinking about that principle and how a lot of the time I’m interacting with people and it might be how I make them feel, but really, they tie me to something else, like they tie me to, you know, Mark Carter or Torch of Faith, and so if I’m not careful, like I’m, I’m representing the organization as I’m making them feel something. And so, that can put a bad taste in their mouth, not just about my leader, or about the organization that I work for, but about Jesus, like, because that’s who I’m actually representing.

Carter: So, when that goes right, like, what do you want? Like, what’s the win? What do you want them to feel?

Melissa: I want people to feel really heard and cared for, like, their thing matters. Like I’m sure everybody in ministry knows this, it feels like if we’re not careful, everything can take on the same importance and everyone thinks that their thing is the most important thing. It’s the most important thing to them. And so, I think just making sure to honor that for people, while still kind of helping them understand in a loving way, where their things kind of stacks in the list of other things. So, making them feel loved, making them feel heard, making them feel like your leader cares about their thing, and you know, I haven’t gotten this right 100% of the time. But I think a helpful thing for me is just to go slower than my natural tendency is, like my natural tendency is to shoot an email back quickly or respond to a question faster than I should. And so, if I go a little bit slower and I’m trying to pick out like, oh, they have strong feelings about this thing. It helps to slow down and help them talk through it or explain it.

Carter: I think that’s part of what we sometimes call the shadow. So, one of things that makes Melissa so great at her job is she’s got a real burden to get stuff done. Like she wants to keep moving the thing you know, she she’s got a very high capacity. She wants things to keep happening and then that’s the very thing that she’ll find that she has to resist, we all have to resist it from time to time, but my normal mode is to make things happen. But I have this human in front of me and I need to make sure that I’m slowing down enough to help them see what they’re supposed to see or feel the way they’re supposed to feel. Yeah, that’s good. What about a way, Melissa, so that’s what you want, what about when it gets jacked up? Like what are people you know, going to miss or what are they going to do wrong with regard to this?

Melissa: You know, I can think of a situation that I was in, I think last summer, and I just made a mistake. I was out to lunch with someone and it was a person that I’m comfortable with that I have a close relationship to, and I was just running my mouth, saying things, lots of things about things that probably I shouldn’t have and really the details don’t matter what happened was I was misrepresenting my organization in this situation. I was talking about, you know, somebody else in their organization who were sitting here having lunch, and I turned around, and a person from that organization, he was wearing the polo like with the logo of this organization that I was kind of bad mouthing essentially, in the name of the organization that I work for. It was like literally, like every possible epic fail, like it was just the total worth. You know, I was instantly mortified. I don’t know if he heard me or not, but really, that this doesn’t really matter whether or not he heard me. I think from that experience, I was able to go to my leader and say like, hey, this is the thing that I did really wrong and like repent for that. I feel like I was lead through that situation very well of, and that was what really nailed it home for me was yes, I misrepresented my leader and I misrepresented my organization and I kind of did a jerky thing anyway, but really I misrepresented Jesus’s heart for this organization for these people. They’re great people. This is what they’re doing, would they do things exactly the way that we do them. Maybe not. But that doesn’t lessen their value in the eyes of Jesus and so, I was just misrepresenting, not just my organization, but my Savior, you know, because He wouldn’t speak of them that way. I feel like I learned a lot from that. I still don’t get it 100% right. It was bad enough and my journey through God’s Word to think about how I use my mouth was long enough to where I feel like, oh, okay, that was hammered in a little more clearly than it was before.

Carter: Yeah. I think one of the things that you do, right, Melissa, is you’re super open to feedback, and I think we had conversations on this up front, when you when you first accepted the role. One of the reasons I trust you so much is because I know you’re actually going to tell on yourself, whereas someone might be tempted to, oh, crap, I jacked this up, I hope they don’t find out. You’ve tended to demonstrate a look man, here’s what I did wrong, and that creates not only trust that, oh well we can correct the thing and gives you feedback and a kind of a mirror of like, this is what this looks like, or this is what this is doing. But I think it also gives me a confidence in man, disciples, I mean, who doesn’t want to work with people that are genuinely trying to grow in Christ’s likeness, and that would be so different than if and I know that some know what this is like when you have to work with somebody that just bristles any time you have to have a conversation, that is just so hard. And I think one of the ways that God has really allowed you to continue to get good at this is giving you a humble spirit of just like, hey, I actually, I would rather have a hard conversation with my leader, so that I can represent Christ than kind of get away with it, and yet grieve the heart of my Savior. So, I think that’s huge and I think people really need to take that into consideration because I think that’s why the Lord has continued to, you know, just bless you with regardless.

Melissa: Yeah, I totally don’t deserve to be here, so He’s just been really good to me.

Carter: What else would you counsel leaders? Hey man, you might want to think about this with regard to representing the organization, your leader, and most of all, Jesus.

Melissa: You know, I think probably something that you can do is, you know, sometimes, you know, sin just can harden your heart, and you don’t even kind of notice it. So sometimes I think it’s good to kind of do an honest assessment, maybe ask some people that you trust, definitely ask your leader and actually just ask them, have you heard anything? Like, have I misrepresented you? Or you can even just tell them, hey, I feel like this situation was borderline and tell them what you did and let them decide, oh actually, you know that was fine or can I tell you a different way that you could have explained that to that person that would have represented us better? I think if you have great leaders like I do, we’re going to help you walk through that and actually grow through it, instead of just, you know, giving you a slap for it. So, every situation that I’ve been in where I’ve been like, I’m not sure if I did this right, you know, my leaders have been really helpful in explaining how I could do it better. But I think you just have to have some of those honest conversations with people. I think sometimes you don’t, maybe you don’t notice, this is totally happened to me where I didn’t notice what I was doing, and it took something as bad as turning around and seeing the person behind me to really have like a check in my spirit of oh wait, this was really bad. You know, because in this situation, I was talking to somebody that I trusted and really didn’t have much to do with my organization. And ask Jesus is there somewhere that I’m misrepresenting You, because it’s good to like, make sure that you’re representing your leaders in your organization well, but there’s things we all do in private, you know.

Carter: Right. They don’t know always what the Holy Ghost sees.

Melissa: Oh totally, and there’s things that you can be doing to misrepresent Jesus, that if somebody knew that, that would be misrepresenting Him.

Carter: No, that’s good. And I think every leader needs to remember in here, and some  might be like oh, that’s not excellence, but I would just make the case that look man, everybody jacks stuff up, you know what I’m saying and I’d much rather have an organization full of people that are growing and learning and figuring out things that they mess up than hiding the fact that they’re messing up because everybody does. I’ve said stupid crap from stage, I’ve hurt people, nobody is going to lead very long without doing something ridiculously stupid that misrepresents Jesus, and so we just have to have an attitude, especially those who you know, people report to you, you just want to make it feel good for them to tell on themselves, like you want that to go well for them so they continue to go well for them. Because again, we’ve all heard this before their value increases as they’re learning from their mistakes, like, what are you going to do let them go and then get somebody that hasn’t made any mistakes yet? Well then, they’re gonna make more mistakes than the other person would have so, it’s just so important to create an environment where people can tell on themselves and it’s going to go well.

Melissa: I think you up the buy in too from that staff person and it’s not that you don’t confront them on hard things, but they start to trust you with oh this, there’s always grace, my leader hasn’t reacted poorly to me, even when I’ve done X, Y, and Z. You know, and I think you’ve done a good job of that in our organization of I can come to you and say this is something I really jacked up, and like, we’ll deal with it, we’ll really talk through it and its actual feedback and it stings but we represent Jesus well, and that there’s always grace for that. It’s okay to make mistakes.

Carter: That’s good man, that’s helpful to our listeners. Hey so, number one is you need to focus on representing Jesus and your leader to the world. What about number two? What’s another thing that you think would be helpful for second chair people to hear?

Melissa: You know, this is another thing I’ve gotten wrong, and it’s just around the topic of discretion. So, discretion in ministry, really anywhere is so essential, and your leader has to be able to trust you in a position like mine or I’m sure in a position a lot of our listeners are in. You hold a lot of key information about people projects, initiatives that you probably don’t necessarily want to share with the public yet, like there’s things that you definitely want to make sure that you’re communicating in the right way in the right time; so, you want to be careful with that information, like how you represent it, and how you share it.

Carter: Okay so you mentioned discretion, and the fact that your leader essentially has to trust you. They’re going to not say certain things in certain environments, you know, they’re not going to let on that they know a whole lot more about many situations than often people might think. What are some examples of places, Melissa, that people need to watch out for that?

Melissa: I think I see this happened and for me unique, perhaps to my role is I have Carter’s passwords to pretty much everything. Like there’s just, I could probably find anything I wanted to find in most of your email, and so it’ll happen to me where I’m trying to be helpful. I’m looking through email trying to see if I can book someone an appointment or do whatever I can. And I’ll you know, open up the email, and I’ll start to look at it, and I’ll get through the first couple lines, and I’ll be like, um, this one’s not for me. Like, there’s things in here that I don’t necessarily need to see, probably nothing I could be helpful for in this particular situation, and so it’s one of those things where nobody would know, like, I could read whatever I wanted to read, nobody would know but I leave the email and I mark it unread and I move on. Like, there’s nothing for my eyes to see there.

Carter: Yeah. And I think that that’s something that people need to know, like, I’ve communicated that at different points, just even with my own congregation, hey, she’s not going to read your stuff but if you’re going to communicate with me, then you’re just going to want to, you’re going to want to know there’s a chance Melissa’s gonna see it; and I feel that’s even in all in the email responses, like, Melissa definitely might see this. So just know that and I do trust her to you know, I know that, you even told me that before, you know I started into that and I can tell by like sentence two this is not the thing that I need to be doing. Let me just also say, for everybody, I do put a lot and you know, this just me, I’m not saying this is the way to do it, but I put a lot of confidence in my assistant. I actually want her to have access to pretty much anything, because I feel like as a pastor, you just hear about people falling and doing all kinds of stuff. You know, it’s not that I need her to go looking through my stuff, but I just want to have the kind of life that actually as long as I trust this person pretty well, there’s nothing I even have that I wouldn’t want someone to be able to look at it. So, I think for me if maybe you don’t know the person well enough yet or whatever, but for me, I want the kind of relationship with my assistant, where dude, what would I be hiding anyway, like you’re helping me do this stuff. So, you should have all the access to it and that’s just part of the agreement. That’s how the church understands it. I cannot do this alone and so, we need help to do all this stuff.

Well my friends, thanks so much again for joining us today. There’s a lot more leadership content at the website Depending where you’re viewing or listening to this, don’t forget to like and subscribe. Hey, if you find this content helpful and you want to support the Bible Leadership Podcast by becoming part of the BLP family, you can check out our Patreon page, go to  Anything you pledge it goes a long way to helping us create more digital resources to help people grow as spiritual leaders. You guys have been amazing so far, so thank you so much for that to everybody who supports. Also, don’t want to forget you can now get some BLP Bible Leadership Podcast swag at the website Go check it out man, we got some cool t-shirts. If you want to show your support out in public, man, I would encourage you to do it. Go check it out Hey, before I go, real quick, coming up soon is the Swordgirl conference at Torch of Faith Church in Grayslake. That’s the church where I serve, on September 20 and 21, and this is the fourth year in a row where we turn all of our attention towards Swordgirl. This is the conference for ladies that need to refresh and recharge and need some fresh vision. Maybe you need to connect with some other gals, you know, groups of gals go, grandmas, mamas and daughters, they all go together. You can get your tickets for only $80, or you can sponsor somebody else by going to Hey, this could be a great gift for somebody, probably get you some good points too, for the woman or the daughter in your life that is worth it. This year we’re going to have Jamie Ivey, Stefanie Boyce, Sophie Hudson and Mackenzie Carter. Anytime my wife feels bad about getting something, I have to remind her, hey baby, you are worth it. And I want to tell you, you know this Jesus thinks you’re worth it and you are, so don’t feel bad about maybe spending a little bit of money on yourself to keep yourself growing spiritually. Hey, that’s all the time we have; as always, check back soon for more leadership training designed to keep you leading from the Bible, and not just with it. Hey, this generation needs someone to stand up and do what is right. So, don’t forget to lead from the Bible, lead humble but lead strong today. We’ll see you next time.


Posted on July 31, 2019

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Eilish Goodwin
Eilish Goodwin
4 years ago

Thus is a great conversation. Very helpful and insightful. I’ve jacked up my representation of Christ and leadership and plan to use it as a learning curve. Thanks

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