Sharp Number Twos
On a recent edition of the BBC World Service radio program “Business Matters,” Worldwide Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Richard Hytner made a compelling case for the primary importance of second-in-commands and how sidekicks can manage and influence upwards.
“Great leaders have to give themselves room to think through the key complex issues, give themselves time to reflect, and not shoot from the hip,” said the author of Consiglieri: Leading from the Shadows and Adjunct Professor of Marketing at the London Business School. “They need to create time and space around themselves, and to do that you must delegate a huge amount to those you trust.”
Reflecting upon famous power duos from the worlds of business, politics, media, the arts, and history, Hytner brought into the discussion far-ranging examples from Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren to King Arthur and Merlin. “I believe that you can test great how good a leader is by the quality of those around him,” Hytner contended, explaining that while great leaders must show confidence and vision and act decisively, “micromanagers very quickly run out of road.”
Hytner also helped clarified a misconception that’s stuck to perhaps the most famous “number two” in political history: Niccolo Machiavelli, Florence Renaissance diplomat and that rare figure anointed adjectival status. “Most of his work was intended to lay out the right kind of reciprocal relationship that needs to exist between a prince and his ministers,” Hytner explained of the author of The Prince, whose name has become synonymous with deceit, deviousness, and ruthless ambition.
In a season of high political drama surrounding the U.K. elections and opening salvos of the U.S. Presidential race, Hytner’s thoughts on the dynamics between leaders and their advisors proved especially timely and provocative. You can listen to the full radio program here (Mr. Hytner’s segment begins approximately 18:30 minutes into the hour-long broadcast).« Back to Media Articles