Lessons From 6 Famous Sidekicks: How To Succeed Without Being A Lackey
Thursday's match-up between Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan may not be the most anticipated debate of the election season, but for those who do tune in, the discussion will likely showcase how devoted each man is to his running mate.
Playing second fiddle to a more successful and sometimes better known persona can be challenging. How do you support your boss -- without seeming like a lackey? How do you maintain your own identity and exhibit your talents, without upstaging the boss -- and possibly alienating him or her?
To find out, AOL Jobs reached out to several career experts for their advice. Here's what they had to say:
1. Know what you bring to the job.
Your boss has strengths, and so do you. Understanding how you contribute to the duo is vital to feeling satisfied as second in command. "Being effective as second in command means knowing how to add value to the power of the partnership. You aren't an under-study, you are key player who can enhance the success of the team," says J.T. O'Donnell, AOL Jobs career expert/blogger and founder of CareerHMO.com. She suggests carving out your own goals and agenda and showing your ability to get things done while supporting your boss. "If you want the top-spot someday," O'Donnell says, "you need to be able to step out of the shadows of your boss and shine on your own."
2. Be an extension of your boss, not a copy.
It's important for the second in command to be an extension of the boss. However, it's not necessary for him or her to share the exact same views as the boss. In fact, it can actually benefit both parties if they have slightly different opinions. "It is not important for the second to adopt the same personal style or brand because this person is a leader by their own right and should be seen as such by others," says Dorothy Tannahill-Moran of NextChapterNewLife.com. Additionally, Tannahill-Mornan says that it's OK for others to see that the two don't always hold the same opinions on things. "For people to see disagreement in opinions means that there is room for growth and diversity of opinion," she says. "Even as a second, people will not respect or follow someone they think is a 'lackey' to the boss but is respected by the boss for their unique contributions."
3. Don't let yourself be the scapegoat.
"Sometimes being 'second in command' can mean you're 'first to blame' if things don't work out the way your boss plans," says Amanda Haddaway author of "Destination Real World: Success After Graduation for New and Soon-to-Be College Graduates." To ensure a positive working environment, Haddaway suggests making a deal with your boss to never criticize each other in public. If there's an issue, take the time to resolve it one-on-one in private. "This allows you each to save face and puts you in a better position to become the number one person should your boss decide to move onto another opportunity," she says.
4. Make the boss look good.
"You don't want to overshadow your boss, but you want to do everything you can to make him or her look good and get promoted," says Bud Bilanich, author of "Climbing the Corporate Ladder." That's the easiest way for you to get promoted. "Once a decision is made," Bilanich says, "support it in public -- both inside and outside of your company."
How have famous sidekicks managed the role? Check out the gallery below, which features six well-known right-hand men and women, and then share your own experience.
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. Follow David on Twitter. Email David at firstname.lastname@example.org. Add David to your Google+ circles.more...