Richard Hytner (2014)

A book on how to shine from the shadows.

While most books on leadership concentrate on the leaders, and especially on how to become a more charismatic leader, this book takes the opposite tack: how to be a loyal supporter and an “invisible” leader even if you never take the top spot. As a dedicated introvert and fan of Niccolo Machiavelli, this is definitely a position I can understand.

Hytner divides leaders into A’s and C’s, where A’s seek the limelight and C’s seek to wield their influence more discreetly. He sprinkles his presentation with some great examples of modern-day partnerships and how they work. He explores the different supporting roles needed in organisations, and the things that the headline leader needs – both positive in the sense of providing advice and research, and negative in the sense of reining-in and keeping grounded – that can best be provided by someone comfortable in their anonymity. In that sense this is a book both for those wanting to be better C’s, and for those A’s who want to choose their consiglieri wisely.

One observation that I wasn’t expecting was the idea of moving between the A and C role, that a C might aspire to move into the A position after a period of consolidation, or that an A might benefit from time spent out of the limelight as a C. Both these strike me as problematic for reasons of basic personality structure, but in any event they point to essential value of both the top jobs and their close supporters, and the need to manage both equally in a well-functioning organisation.

4/5. Finished Sunday 30 August, 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)