The synthesis and reactivity of ruthenium complexes containing the tetradentate phenanthroline-based phosphine ligand 2,9-bis((di-tert-butylphosphino)methyl)-1,10-phenanthroline (PPhenP) is described. The hydrido chloro complex [RuHCl(PPhenP)] (2) undergoes facile dearomatization upon deprotonation of the benzylic position, to give [RuH(PPhenP-H)] (4). Addition of dihydrogen to 4 causes rearomatization of the phenanthroline moiety to trans-[Ru(H)2(PPhenP)] (5), followed by hydrogenation of an aromatic heterocycle in the ligand backbone, to give a new dearomatized and deconjugated complex [RuH(PPhenP*-H)] (6). These aromatization/deconjugation steps of the coordinated ligand were demonstrated to be reversible and operative in the dehydrogenation of primary alcohols without the need for a hydrogen acceptor. This aromatization/deconjugation sequence constitutes an unprecedented mode of a stepwise cooperation between the metal center and the coordinated ligand.