But let’s say your friend is determined to reach the No. 1 spot, either at this company or somewhere else, and sees the “C” job as a step along that path. Consiglieri is packed with lively stories of how well-known CEOs made smart use of their No. 2 stints. The first thing such “apprentice CEOs” have to do, by Hytner’s lights, is take an honest look at what skills they need to sharpen before they’re seen as chief executive material.
So your friend’s first step should be to find out exactly why he was passed over for the top job this time. Hytner notes that talent development, for example, is crucial to companies now, so the lack of a great track record for hiring, inspiring, and keeping star employees sometimes trips up aspiring CEOs. “It could be that your friend has been so focused on his own career that he hasn’t brought enough people up with him—like [former Republican Congressman] Eric Cantor, who was so intent on what was happening in D.C. that he forgot to go back to Virginia and win over the voters.”
Whatever the reason he may be perceived as not ready to run the whole show, you’d be doing your friend a favor by suggesting he think twice before turning down the No. 2 job.
Talkback: Have you ever been offered a promotion that was less than you expected? How did you respond? Leave a comment below.