So many people aspire to be top dog, the Big Kahuna, the CEO, that they cease to realize that sometimes it’s more fun, fulfilling, and energizing to be Number Two. The person who sits on the top of the org chart does not have a monopoly on influence, nor does a box determine your value.
I often work with clients who want their boss’s job. They want to do everything they can to set themselves up for success. I always suggest that the first thing that they should do is to lean into the relationship with their boss and set the team up for success… good things will follow.
Some refer to it as “Two in a Box” or “co-leading,” I call it the Power of Two. At one time I wanted to be the leader in my division, but I already was a leader with influence and opportunity. Instead of longing for my next promotion , I relished the unique leadership position of Number Two.
I was the unofficial Number Two in our division and reported in to Number One. He was more than my boss, I was lucky that he was also a friend and someone who realized that he too needed the Power of Two. We had complementary skills and backgrounds and I was not in competition with him or gunning for his job. I was on his team and more importantly, I always felt like he was on mine, we were in it together.
In truth, there are upsides and downsides to every relationship. The downside was we were viewed as “a package deal.” (Hello, two in a box) When his reputation took a beating, mine did too. When his leadership was called into question, mine was too. I felt the sting while he took the slap. My corporate identity was closely tied to his, but I had the confidence to know that I was very much my own person and doing meaningful work focused on people, change and innovation .
Yes, there were other senior leaders in our division as well as directors and managers all the way down the line. Every single person in the operation was critical to our success. We were not an official team of two, our unique relationship took shape organically, not based on some fancy chart dictating hierarchy and relationships.
Number One always speaks first in meetings.
Number Two is grateful that they have time to reflect.
Number One stands at the front of the room.
Number Two sits in the audience and hears the whispers of what’s really on their minds.
Number One is frequently told what others think she wants to hear.
Number Two is asked to brainstorm before meetings with Number One.
Number One has everything they say and do on the record.
Number Two can freely share opinions.
Number One asks for opinions and is often met with silence.
Number Two gets an earful of the real deal.
Number One thinks they’re super funny because everyone laughs at their jokes.
Number Two smiles knowing Number One isn’t fooled by the laughter.
Number One has an advisor and partner on the journey.
Number Two is empowered and trusted to speak for the team.
Number One asks Number Two for thoughts and ideas.
Number Two is called forth to lead and not simply wait for direction.
Two minds focused on solutions and success.
Two people honest about strengths and challenges.
Two humans where you can both speak your truth .
A team. Not the leader and the lackey.
Your number doesn’t really matter… the most important thing is to tap into the power and strength of the relationship. Be role models who lead with integrity and always remember: we are stronger together.
Have you tapped into the Power of Two? What was your experience?