The powerful but underrated role of 2IC


As a small business owner with a growing team, I read a lot about management and leadership.


What I seem to hear less of /read less about is the value placed on the essential role of the trusted 2IC – and how this role in a company is just as important as the role of leader. This underrated role is instrumental in the development of strategy, and the strengthening of consistency, process and reliability across the organization – all essential elements in the pathway to reputational and commercial success.


Only recently the ripples of the sudden resignation of Facebook’s Chris Cox were felt in silicone valley. Cox, who alongside Cheryl Sandberg was being groomed as a potential successor to Mark Zuckerberg, was regarded as a highly stabilizing force in the organization. Part of his value was the delivery of a range of unique and contrasting skills to Zuckerberg that has helped drive activities to support Facebook’s vision including the acquisition of Instagram and What’s App. The impact of his departure on the company’s future – and more specifically Zuckerberg’s controversial focus on private messaging products over public posts - remains to be seen.

Other examples of powerful 2IC relationships that have left their mark of success in history is the charisma vs pedigree dynamic of the Clinton/Gore administration – sometimes dubbed “the odd couple” they worked based on their diverse styles and backgrounds.. and the powerful relationship of Microsoft’s Bill Gates and 2IC Steve Balmer that spanned three decades and forged a multi billion dollar global empire.


Unfortunately, literature around these diversely skilled (and frequently feisty) relationships at a local level seems to dry up. When I consider those organisations I currently or have previously worked with that rely on the CEO/ 2IC model – these are the general characteristics that spring to mind around the “X factor” that can make the right person in this role worth more than their weight in gold for the CEO/founder….


The strong 2IC will generally demonstrate


- A lower level of ego that makes the delineation of CEO vs 2IC role and responsibility possible


- A generally high level of technical/process related knowledge that supports organisational operations


- A generally high level of focus and perseverance in the delivery of organizational goals


- Strong management and people skills


- A high level of loyalty to the organization and the direction of the business founder/ owner


- Strength of character to withstand


I believe there’s room for more awareness and case studies in this area of management practice, and would welcome further case studies and feedback from my Linked in community around this underrated role.



Anne Baker is founder and director of Melbourne based marketing consultancy, Two Crowns Marketing Communications.