While the Boss is Away
Is standing in while the boss is on holiday a career boon or a poison chalice? This is the question Financial Times writer Emma Jacobs considers in a July 16, 2015, story that ponders the positives and pitfalls that can occur when number twos are required to temporarily step up.
“If you are happy to be a deputy then you want your boss to be relaxed [while he/she is on vacation],” says Worldwide Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Richard Hytner, who suggests that the holidays are an optimal time to become clear about one’s personal ambitions. “If you are desperate to sit in their chair then holidays are a chance for you to find out how much you will enjoy the responsibility.”
Hytner, the author of Consiglieri: Leading from the Shadows and Adjunct Professor of Marketing at the London Business School, is joined in the article by an impressive roster of business leaders and experts including: Maggie Stilwell, managing partner for talent, UK and Ireland, at professional service provider EY; Jonathan Lacôte, a diplomat who is the number two at France’s embassy in the UK; John Lees, author of How to Get a Job You Love; Ian Gooden, chief executive of Chiumento Recruitment; Andrew Gowers, former editor and deputy editor of the Financial Times; and Om Ruparel, managing director and founder of digital recruitment agency Recruitmentology.
This timely FT story identifies the dangers of standing in for the boss during summer breaks, including generally increased workload, reduced staff, potential to overstep the mark (is one tasked with being a mere “message taker and delayer” until the boss returns or charged with real authority?), and confusion over chain of command. The key, the article maintains, is clearly communicating responsibilities not just to the substitute leader but to the entire team. While pinch-hitting can provide ample opportunities to shine, as Hytner explains: “Great deputies are utterly content being a deputy and have no desire to be in the shoes of their boss.”
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