Who’s Your No. 2?

Every successful leader should have a No. 2 — someone prepared to take over or step in temporarily. That doesn’t just happen. It takes intention and mentorship over time.

Identifying a No. 2 is an important leadership step. It doesn’t matter if you supervise a small group within a division or lead the executive team. This person should become a trusted advisor who you can lean on, helps you run the business (or part of it) and potentially becomes qualified to do your job. The individual doesn’t necessarily have to be your replacement, but is your “go-to” person.

Here’s a look at some common mistakes that leaders make:

  • Look for a replica
    You actually do not want someone just like you. The key is to hire someone who shares some of your strengths, but more importantly, augments your weaknesses. Hire someone better than yourself and you will get better results.
  • Limit the No. 2
    Designating a second-in-command is not a one-and-done task. You may have more than one No. 2 and the person may change over time. A No. 2 spot can be dynamic. Don’t be afraid to change it up when needed. It’s too important of a position to leave idle.
  • Keep your thumb on everything
    You’ll often hear me say “give up control to get control.” It is more productive and gives you more capacity to play to your strengths when you distribute responsibility to your trusted No. 2.
  • Think they want or need to want your job
    In his book, Looking Out for Number 2, Bruce Miles shares that No. 2s are always in demand and even the best ones are not seeking the No. 1 spot. They prefer being second-in-command. It may even be their sweet spot. Just because they don’t want your job, doesn’t mean they are not qualified to do it.
  • Minimize mentorship
    No. 1s need to invest significantly in their No. 2s and having a desire to do so will increase the output and outcomes. When you begin investing in a No. 2, you should transition from manager to coach. Just like on a sports team, a coach’s job is never done. Keep investing in your No. 2.
  • Fail to promote
    Setting your No. 2 up for success goes beyond your one-on-one time. You also need to be an advocate for them, elevating their work within your organization and giving them opportunities to show their impact. Give them credit publicly and behind their backs for the impact they are having.

How do you know you have a great No. 2? They have a presence about them. You trust them fully and have complete confidence in their abilities, and others do too. If you haven’t already identified a No. 2, now may be a good time to consider how that might look.


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Topics: Leadership, Leadership Team