CEO’s tend to be visionaries and rewarded for seeing the future. COO’s enjoy the “high” that results from bringing visions to realities. The good news is that every organization benefits from both of these individuals in different ways. There is a counterbalance that makes the leadership union complete. The late Robert Goizueta and Donald Keough had that symbiotic relationship when they were at the Coca-Cola Company.
Business Unit Leaders, or “BULs” as I like to call them, have unique talents which got them to the top post. But having a management group with those same talents would not necessarily ensure success. It has been my experience that we are either wired for strategic thinking or we are execution driven. Rarely, do the characteristics of visionaries and ground-engaged managers get packaged into a single individual.
Here are some differences between BULs and #2′s:
Business Unit Leader
- Value absence of routine
- Blind spot—details
Second in Command
- Value predictability and order
- Blind spot—listening to others
Notice these two personalities are not polar opposites. In fact, there are many complimentary characteristics, which makes the combination of a strong BUL and a capable #2 such a powerful team.
In the end, it is a rewarding experience to be the right hand person to a dynamic BUL. There is an immense sense of accomplishment, when a futuristic idea is brought to life, profits are increased and customers are delighted.
In the business and academic world, we need to praise managers who work selflessly to gain the respect and the right to be the “Go to Person” and not to consider them failures for never making it to the top post.
Second in commands play a significant role in their respective organizations. Take for example the appointment of Tim Cook, COO of Apple to take over Steve Jobs’ responsibilities during his extended medical leave. Apple customers, employees and shareholders were seeking comfort and strength in Steve’s absence. And they got what they were seeking. Until now, we had never heard much, if anything, about Mr. Cook, because he was quietly busy implementing Steve’s vision and most importantly, earning his respect to fill his large shoes while he recuperates. A Fuqua Scholar who earned his M.B.A from Duke University, he will show his strength as a leader during this tenuous period in Apple’s history and when he is needed most. How rewarding to be #2.