Looking back along the sightline of my career, a single, common thread emerges, one that defines my work life and my character: I like, without apologies, being Number Two. Not enough is said about the position from which one can be both visionary and executor, define the work and get it done. It is the pivot, the fulcrum, the vital center. Regardless of the metaphor and almost without exception, Number Two is the place of quiet power and influence where ideas turn into action and vision into words. It is my favorite place to be.
Of course, like any other role in life, Number Two depends on several factors to succeed: a compelling purpose, trust from Number One, and talent on the execution side. The trifecta. To those ideal conditions, a Number Two adds critical thinking and a steady hand to make projects large and small succeed. Leading from the shadows requires a special skill and faith. The secret is to recognize one's unique perspective, neither envying nor emulating Number One. Be complementary not competitive, the very difference both your value and your strength. Plan, and when you think you've got it, plan some more, think everything through to its logical conclusion - that's your job. Build a staff that "gets it" and gets it done. And believe that your work will speak for itself - the very doing and the deed will earn for you all the trust and respect you'll ever need.
I have been extraordinarily lucky in my life to hit the sweet spot more often than not - and to have done so on projects that have in common a quixotic inspirational challenge - big stuff, never done before, the tiger by the tail. The compelling challenge in my new post-retirement life is to channel the Number Two qualities and characteristics into my own personal goals (in which I'm, heaven forbid, also Number One) and a consulting life on projects that continue to intrigue and satisfy. Stay tuned.