The tough life and times of no. 2 , The lessons emerging from Facebook/ Sheryl Sandberg Story
I am reading more and more about ‘Sheryl Sandberg’ and as expected , all articles by seasoned journalists are full of one sided view of her ( suddenly discovered ) bad leadership qualities, weaknesses , while some have already joined the bandwagon clamoring for her ouster .
Not surprising , the law of meteoric rise and fanatic popularity comes with an expensive price tag — a parachute-less fall when things go wrong which would if you are around for over a decade or more ( the law of overstaying ).
But my purpose is not to analyse FB management practices or even deconstructing the leadership journey of Ms. Sandberg ( whom I don’t know personally , firsthand ) or women in leadership positions , my interest is drawn to the idea of seemingly impossible pairing of two professionals bringing missing skills and matching it miraculously to survive the test of reasonable time , say, 5 years.
The idea of ‘ Balancing geeky-rough edged- youthful-antisocial type founder with a suave-hands on-ambitious but content with no. 2 leader’ is a great one and FB success story so far proves the beauty of this.
This could well be the antidote to some of the ills that plague many modern and traditional corporates who spend enormous energy and money in fixing the leadership but never able to see / solve the basic problem — the two types of leadership -
Maverick visionary types
Strong, hands- on, submerged- in- details business types.
In a very anti- gravity logic way , corporates assess one person for both the diverse skill sets and spend their life in hammering them to become a superhuman which never works and if at all , it works like a strange combination of bird and fish with the worst of both.
Most of the corporates secretly love the first type and many of their managers fake ‘ Steve Jobs’ styles with colorful set ups, informal gatherings , shiny innovation atrium but mostly land up with-
His ( anti people ) leadership qualities which is ultra seducing for most jerks and total inability to decode his eye for innovation, fastidiousness for design and X factor
In reality, they practice and value the second type as most of the focus is on short term revenues and profits.
Since the dice is loaded for ‘ High-on-Operation, worldly - wise managers’ , most maverick -innovators- brainy- visionary types are either hounded( to leave ) , adapt to become the ‘poor second type’ or cornered to lead an uninspiring corporate career.
The maverick types are moody , erratic , make life of people around them miserable with - one idea per day’ energy and without them many cutting edge technologies and businesses would never see the light of the day , yet
they need a strong no. 2 who can balance it with business acumen and take care of boring compliance , audit. Legal issues .
This is the best combination as both will not have all the skills ( very rare to find ) and if a pairing is done , this could result in magical performance with the enterprise excelling in new businesses , cutting edge innovations and also a rock solid business providing enough cash supply.
In my ( not so illustrious and in league of FB ) corporate tenure, I was lucky to have this pairing only once and the results were spectacular.
More often than not , you don’t find this pairing and most corporates will have clones ( the law of non threatening similarity ) of second types who do same job of managing operations with micro detailing ( is it micro management ? ) and all you get a culture which is highly ‘operational’ and chain of micro managers doing same job but with heavier titles.
Of course, you do get some pretense of innovation culture/ start up mentality and dare I say , disruptive mentality with fleeting ephemeral waves of innovation days / incubators and awards.
A maverick , rough at edges , erratic but brilliantly innovative leader is best to bring a somnambulant company to life than ten ‘ rock solid business maintenance managers ‘
but with a caveat -
they need a number two who belongs to the second type( talented ) leader to make a reasonably lasting partnership with magical results.