Not everyone can be in charge but, more importantly, not everyone should want to be. Richard Hytner, Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, thinks it’s time to celebrate the second-in-commands, the consiglieri: from Merlin, to Al Gore, Rasputin to Machiavelli. These are the deputies, the Vice Presidents, the C-suite, the department heads – lieutenants, advisers, and counselors – whose influence determines the fate of boardrooms, corporations, and nations.
While supremacy comes with drawbacks and influence, authority and power can be found in much more interesting places than the CEO’s chair. Consiglieri: Leading from The Shadows brings together historical examples from Harry Hopkins to William Seward, conversations with contemporary second-in-commands like Tony Blair and Sir Alex Ferguson, and unique insights into Stalin, JFK, and Winnie the Pooh.
A mirror for contemporary ‘No. 2’s’ and a theoretical map for future consiglieri, the book traverses an array of powerful advisers from the White House to the Vatican, across international business, sports, and entertainment, as well as citing provocative research from psychology and academia.
‘Hytner’s original, much-needed contribution focuses on the unsung heroes – those who lead beyond the limelight. Consiglieri is a must-read.’
– Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, London Business School
‘A fascinating account of the role of the leaders behind the leader – there are lessons here for every walk of life.’
– Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications and Strategy for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
‘Films and plays are littered with examples of the nefarious deputy, from Iago to Macbeth, Darth Vader and Scar in The Lion King. Richard Hytner rescues the deputy from the “disgruntled schemer” and instead celebrates their creative, supportive, positive impact in life, business, sport and even art.’
– Rory Kinnear, actor
‘As one who has never come first at anything, I love this elegantly written book.’
– Lucy Kellaway, columnist, Financial Times
‘Any artist or any leading business person should know how to get the best out of those who help make them great. As I coach more and more stars and professional individuals in all walks of life, I’ll be giving them Consiglieri to read as homework.’
– Nicki Chapman, TV presenter and professional coach
‘The castrati of the corporate world salute you!’
– Andrew Hill, the Associate and Management Editor, Financial Times
Book Excerpt: Consiglieri: Leading from the Shadows, by Richard Hytner (Profile Books)
It is easy to want the top job; less easy to know whether being the ultimate decision-maker is right for you. Do you really wish to be an A, the main attraction and the ace of absolute accountability, or might you prefer to be a key C, on whom the A depends, the kind of person who leads, influences, counsels, guides, and helps the A deliver?
Perhaps there was a villain lurking among my interviewees who played me like a violin. Maybe they so eagerly volunteered the Machiavellian monsters they most ‘reviled’ in a spirit of confession by projection. Scar’s murder of his brother Mufasa and his manipulation of nephew Simba to become King of Pride Rock gets its fair share of admirers; a few were enthralled by the eunuch in Game of Thrones, Lord Varys, member of the king’s council and royal spymaster, officially known as ‘Master of Whisperers’ and Darth Vader’s relationship with the dark side, according to the American Film Institute, ranks him as the third greatest movie villain in cinema history, the ruthless cyborg denied the opportunity to have a lightsabre duel with either Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates.
Devious deputies feed their A’s inappropriate appetite for power. Bob Haldeman, White House chief of staff and one of the seven indicted by a grand jury in 1974 for their role in the Watergate scandal, was considered the second most powerful man in the government during Nixon’s first term and was ‘loved like a brother’ by the president. He could have shown some brotherly love and tempered Nixon’s ambition. Instead he authorized criminal activity, the cover-up of which brought about his A’s downfall.
Along with former CEO Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling transformed Enron from a pipeline company into the world’s largest energy trading company. The two leaders were also responsible for arguably the largest accounting fraud in history, one that cost investors and employees billions of dollars. Was there no sinister second working in the shadows of Lay and Skilling?
Cs rarely carry criminal intent but it is useful to be able to predict dark art deputyship and gauge its contribution to inappropriate outcomes. Larry Page and Sergey Brin set out to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful, a noble cause which has led to people making five billion Google searches every day. Now they need to keep a very close eye on possibly wayward Cs who might treat our petabytes of user-generated data with impropriety, and make money at the expense of our privacy.
It was his C’s casual disregard for privacy that embarrassed Gordon Brown when he was Prime Minister. Damien McBride, former Whitehall civil servant and former special adviser to Brown, has at least come clean about the rumors he fabricated concerning the private lives of some Conservative Party politicians and their spouses. His confessional memoirs, Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin, would make good bedtime reading for those who mistake Machiavelli’s The Prince as a primer for the practice of evil.
And yet, your C can have been your rival. William H. Seward, who overcame his disappointment at losing the Republican nomination to Abraham Lincoln, accepted Lincoln’s invitation to become Secretary of State and emerged as Lincoln’s most prominent adviser, friend and right-hand man. In an echo of Lincoln’s invitation, Barack Obama asked Democratic nominee and acrimonious rival Hillary Clinton to become his Secretary of State, a role she fulfilled for four years. Unlike Seward, Clinton still harbors a desire for a go at the top job and may yet decide to replace her current life of ‘want’ with a future life of ‘should’.
This is a relationship of profound reciprocity, in pursuit of a cause that is greater than either of you. We may not like some of Niccolò Machiavelli’s reflections on the state of play in the early fifteenth century, but as Segretario of the Second Chancery of the Republic and Secretary of the Ten of Liberty and Peace, he had thirteen years to see close up some of the most important political leaders shaping the future of Italy and Europe. One observation in The Prince, which he wrote as former secretary, and with which it is unwise to disagree, is on the need for this reciprocity between prince and minister, A and C: ‘When ministers and princes are related in this way, they can trust each other. When they are otherwise, the outcome will always be harmful either for one or the other.’