My best friend and I have very different tastes in film and television. Yes, there’s an overlap but often things are described as “not really being a Jonesy film” and he’s usually spot on. He’s been suggesting for some time now that I would really love the reimagined “Battlestar Gallactica” and I had fought the good fight until recently Herself produced a boxed set of season 1 and before I could strap down my viper I was off into space.
For those of you who remember the 80s series it was relatively cheesy with humour akin to Roger Moore as Bond and about as unpredictable as an episode of the A-Team. I was therefore quite surprised when the reimagined version started to tackle some very interesting issues (and it’s the only sci-fi show I’ve ever encountered with a labour relations episode!)
The top man is Commander William Adama and his XO (Executive Officer) is Colonel Saul Tigh and it’s the relationship between Adama and Tigh that has got me thinking about the least famous role of them all – the second in command.
I’ve been trying to think of the different types of second in command role and also some examples of them. I’ve been trying to do this since Saturday and in most cases failing so any suggestions gratefully received but so far, here’s the list:
The Runner Up/The Rival
This one seems to be particularly relevant in political circumstances i.e. Gordon Brown to Tony Blair. In this case it appears the second in command is less a support or a successor but more a force that has be neutralised and controlled
The Power behind the Throne
Here position is not relevant – these people usually have the ear of the leader and the power within the organisation to actually get stuff done. They are never famous but actually incredibly powerful in their anonymity unless their surname is Mandelson.
The Heir Apparent
Whilst this can be assumed for people in the ‘runner up’ box it isn’t always a given but in some cases the Number 2 is there as Number 1 in waiting. To learn the ropes, step up and gradually get to the point where the number 1 can just wander off into the sunset. Or if you’re Bill Gates make a humorous video clip and set up a massive charitable foundation
To Vito Corleone, his Consigliari was Tom Hagen, the lawyer. A trusted counsellor (in both senses of the word) who took a different view and was there to constructively challenge the Don. I think the defining characteristics are the trust between the leader and their Consigliari and the perceived wisdom of the advisor – they have another perspective to add
The Yin and The Yang
As individuals we all have strengths and weaknesses. One of the major differences I’ve noticed in people I’ve worked with is those who find strategic thinking more straight forward and those who find the execution and operation of things more straight forward. I can’t think of an example but it strikes me that some leaders must balance themselves and their strengths in selecting a number 2 giving that balance to running the organisation (anyone got an example that works here?)
The Loyal Servant
Which is where it all started as Tigh is explicitly loyal to Adama and articulates his desire to only be a number 2 and not have command. That said he is a deeply flawed individual who has some very defined weaknesses that Adama seems to accept and goes as far as protecting Tigh despite his weaknesses. Whether that’s because his weaknesses help Adama as a leader, the loyalty gives Adama the security to lead or like those married couples that sometimes you look at and think ‘they shouldn’t work but they REALLY do’.
This definitely needs some more thought but the two things I keep on coming back to are firstly does anyone ever set out to be a number 2 (and do they develop themselves with that in mind?) and secondly are leaders conscious of the qualities of their number 2 and how it impacts on their success (or failure)?