Sometimes the hardest number to be in life is two: 2nd string, 2nd clarinet, Vice President or Assistant Pastor. You are quite literally a heartbeat away from principal leadership but as for getting recognition for your effort? You might as well be in another time zone. Yet, where would a team, an orchestra, a country, or a church be without the invaluable aid of a good number two.

For years in the business world, I was a number two and understood the importance of the position. While my name wasn’t on the building or my picture in the newspaper, my leadership skills combined with a willingness to stay in the background became a vital part of our company’s success. Quality leadership is needed at every level, not just at the top.

For many years Dan Abrams and Robb Almy were each primary pastors of churches. They were outstanding spiritual leaders and dynamic preachers. Several times, Dan was called out of retirement to help churches in need. Robb helped start a new church and successfully pastored several established churches.

But at different times and at different churches, I needed an assistant pastor. The assistant pastor seldom stands in front of the congregation during worship. In fact, the assistant pastor rarely receives credit for any of the major initiatives of the church. When the press looks for an interview, they never call the assistant. When the assistant pastor visits someone in the hospital or at home, the facial expression they will inevitably encounter will be a look of disappointment implying, “Was the real pastor too busy to see me?”

Many with their leadership background and ability would regard becoming an assistant pastor as a demotion and politely but vehemently say no. But Dan and Robb realized our needs, swallowed their pride and through their leadership, our churches were richly blessed. Through the years, they each set the example of how to humbly influence our church as number two.

Dan is now retired, and Robb enjoys teaching at a local High School. I’m thrilled for both of them, but I miss their reassuring presence and encouragement. They both provided inspiring messages and excellent leadership. During meetings, they instinctively knew when to provide a quip or a comment designed to help us either lighten-up or stay focused. Both habitually reminded everyone that we work as a team focused on serving God.

But what I really admire about both Robb and Dan is their innate ability to realize when you need a sensitive, listening ear or an encouraging hug. Mell, my wife described them as “insightful.”

John Maxwell teaches the concept of being number 2 in his book: “The 360 Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization.” Here are his nine basic principles:

1. Lead yourself exceptionally well.

2. Lighten your leader’s load.

3. Be willing to do what others won’t.

4. Do more than manage — lead!

5. Invest in relational chemistry.

6. Be prepared every time you take your leader’s time.

7. Know when to push and when to back off.

8. Become a go-to player.

9. Be better tomorrow than you are today.

Those nine principles accurately describe Dan Abrams and Robb Almy. They served God and our church well and I feel blessed to call them friends. Jesus once described the qualities of leadership: “You know that in this world kings are tyrants. and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must become your slave.” (Mat 20:25-27)

John Maxwell wrote: “The best leaders help others succeed.” Dan Abrams and Robb Almy provided servant leadership that helped others succeed.