Leaders are the ones who make the news. The ones who made the big plays, the big decisions, the power moves that changed the world, saved the day, won the game. It is always the leaders who are the talk of the town.
Some people are natural-born leaders. They step up, walk first, feel the ever-pressing need to be the one who is calling the shots and making the rules. They like the power and the prestige. The good ones understand the sacrifice and don’t shy away but lean into it and enjoy their role even more. Some people may not be born leaders. They didn’t organize the games on the playground, they didn’t host the slumber parties. But they have the potential. They don’t desire the mantel of leadership but they can carry if they have to, and carry it well.
But Not For Everyone
But recently I have discovered that while it is the leaders who get the credit and the glory, I do not seek to be in that position. All jobs want leaders. Look at any job posting and you will stumble on the word “leadership”. Everyone is always looking for someone who can step up, make decisions, and organize a group. If we were even half of the leaders we promote ourselves as there would be no people left to lead. No leader can have a position if there are no followers. I have decided my spot, my natural tendency is to fall into number two.
Every leader has a second, the person just behind them. The first onboard with an idea, the one who helps enforce the rules, their right hand. This person is often consulted on things but gives the final decision to the leader and backs them almost unquestioningly. A good second is worth the work it takes to earn their allegiance, as most are loyal to a fault, ride or die. These types of people are those who can carry the burdens of leadership but know that they are not the natural ones. They were not born with those gifts of charisma, control, and command. I know, I am one.
I used to resent this position. Who wants to be second? Second is not first. Staying in second means I am still doing more work than average but not getting any of the benefits. But recently I started working for the best boss I have ever had. Took some time but after I bought into this boss caring about us as people and workers, my tune changed. I’ve never had anyone so willing to work with me on scheduling, so understanding about family issues, or so on board with a job being just a job and not my entire existence. After having bosses who worked me to the bone for $7.25 an hour, who ignored labor laws during rush hour, and who expected me to come running should the company need me, this was a complete 180. So what happened?
Loyalty in case you haven’t guessed is a bit of a sticking point with me. Lose it and it’s never coming back. But earn it and I will march through fire for you without a question. This boss earned my loyalty. And I couldn’t care less about being first. I have no desire to lead. I see what they go through, the hoops they jump through, and the rewards they get. I see how they try to take care of us and the work they do. My goal has since become, to be the absolute best second I can be. I want to make my boss look good and make sure I support them as best as I can. I can have everything laid out for me. They make the game plan and I get handed an already drawn map of how to get it done. They might get the credit but if it blows up it won’t come down on me either. There is no pressure and very rarely a reason for pushback.
A good leader, a good number one does everything to protect and help the ones he leads. The mission and his people are his top priorities. If you are not in this position and do not feel that deep woven into your bones need to be, then being number two isn’t so bad. If your leader is good, being their right-hand person is about the best place to be. A good team is almost always made up of a first and a second, the obvious leader and the one right behind. You cannot have two leaders and expect the team to function. We push so much for the position of leadership, we forget the benefits and the fulfillment you can get from being a helper.
Be a leader. Be number one. If that is what you were born to do, want to do, need to do. But if that isn’t in your blood don’t be afraid to find a fantastic leader and then make it your goal to become a fantastic team. Be the help they need, the extra hand, the second voice. Sometimes the second place is gold.