The next 50 years – London Business School
What if second became the new first in leadership?
Interviews for Consiglieri: Leading from the Shadows with more than 100 leaders from business, sports, the arts and politics have shed new light on society’s unhealthy obsession with the limelight, one that devalues the crucial role of the counsellors, coaches and deputies behind some of the world’s greatest leaders.
Management books and organisations have tended to focus solely on the top dogs, the all-singing, all-dancing CEOs. By omission they have perpetuated the dangerous belief that deputies, counsellors, advisers and assistants are positions not worthwhile for aspiring or talented leaders.
Second place need not be a step down, nor a step back. Careers were once ladders to climb. Now new generations of aspiring leaders, for whom rungs and ladders do not exist, see lateral moves as opportunities to progress. Each new job is a chance to test a different leadership muscle, whether as project or team leader or as a contributor to the collective leadership endeavour. Of course, every organisation needs its ultimately accountable leader – its A – to make the final decisions on core elements of strategy and execution, but every A needs a powerful and diverse team of C leaders – Consiglieri who may be deputies, coaches, advisors and fixers – beside them.
Our infatuation with No. 1 in the pecking order masks the vital contribution made by these Cs who lead from the shadows. From Alastair Campbell for Tony Blair, Amit Shah for Narendra Modi, Takeo Fujisawa for Soichiro Honda, Valerie Jarett for President Obama and now Angela Ahrendts for Tim Cook, life as a consigliere comes with large doses of its own accountability and private pleasure. C leaders are driven as much by achievement as by ambition.
We need our charismatic As to make the big decisions in the increasingly punitive glare of the lens, but these leaders should not underestimate the importance of the deputies who counsel, guide and anchor them. Cs have the opportunity to flex their intellectual, creative and operational muscles in C leadership’s diverse and stretching roles.
A leaders need to ensure that the glare of the limelight doesn’t dazzle them into an implicit and inaccurate belief that deputies lack the ambition or talent to make it to the top. Indeed a crack at the A’s job may be the C’s very next move. Conversely, because a career in leadership is not complete without a stint as a consigliere, what if more As were to cede the captain’s armband, even temporarily and try leading without overt power and authority?« Back to Media Articles