Working From Second Chair

Most people don’t get to be the CEO or President, the head honcho or boss man.

Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle, executing and bringing creativity to our piece of THE vision.

This can be a tough place to lead from if you ever feel constrained or worse, you find yourself becoming a doing-pawn, merely carrying out the tactical orders of higher ups with no creative input.

How do you work with a strong key leader without frustrating him or her yet have a voice in the process? You don’t want to find yourself in the position of always being the “no-that-isn’t-a good-idea” guy but also don’t want to be a mere “yes-man” lest you lose your soul.

Here is an approach to consider.

When working with a leader, break down your leader’s thoughts (or orders) into three areas, concern, intent and tactics.

Often a leader will issue a tactical order without explaining the concern or intent behind it. In moment of crisis situations, these often need to executed immediately with no questions asked. But later, after the crisis passes, dialogue can be had as to why the leader issued the tactics they did. Most decisions are not in the moment crises and this conversation can happen along the way.

When you hear a tactic given, seek to understand the leader’s concern. Obviously, something is moving them to issue a tactical order. Are you not moving enough product, is attendance down, is something happening that is causing a drift from his or her vision? See if you can get the leader to clearly voice the fundamental concern.


Second, move up one level from the tactical order and see if you can re-voice the leader’s intent back to them. “So I hear you telling us to do X tactic because you want to see Y result.” Sometimes you might be spot on. Other times the leader might add clarity by expanding your understanding for his wanting you to use a specific tactic. This will allow you to implement the tactic with a greater passion than merely carrying it out “because the boss said so.”


Another opportunity comes here. Often visionary leaders are great an intuitively having the right concern and intent but not necessarily applying the right tactic.

Understanding their concern and intent allows you to come to them and say, “Here is another option (tactic) to consider that might address your concern and intention in a more effective way.”

You’ll often find leaders who at first sound glued to a specific tactic are not as nearly glued to the tactic as they are to fixing the concern. When you identify with their concern and intent, they will be open to more effective tactics and not see  you as rebelling against authority. You are still a team player and on-board with the vision.  You are merely suggesting a different tactic to arrive at their desired outcome.

If these conversations are seasoned with grace and patience, I have seen remarkable openness by leaders to yield to more effective tactics different than they originally ordered because their concern and intent is being addressed.

Published by

Jordan Fowler

Jordan helps small businesses grow as the owner of Moon & Owl Marketing, a marketing and advertising agency in Fort Worth, TX. Lover of cycling, track and field, and borderline Liverpool FC fanatic.

One thought on “Working From Second Chair”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *