In this new virtual environment, something strange is happening. Rein4ce Director Sarah Hills is seeing an interesting new trend – the rise of the second in command.
It’s a funny old world. We’re all finding new ways to work, communicate and run our schedules. Personally, I’ve had my own challenges – getting COVID-19, balancing work and childcare as a single mum in lockdown, and trying to stay safe and sane.
But there is something interesting that has been occurring, both at Rein4ce and at other companies. Aside from the endless Zoom, Skype or Teams calls, the shift away from informal chats to email (often cc’ing in everyone), and the lack of face-to-face interaction (and after work drinks!), a new trend is happening – the office hierarchy is changing.
Insurance and reinsurance CEOs are generally confident, self-assured and often are hugely charismatic – but sometimes this does not always translate well into a virtual world. Holding a room or being the centre of attention does not work on video calls. I’ve witnessed larger-than-life CEOs suffer from massive WebEx fatigue and look uncomfortable in this new setting. Not only are you unable to feed of other people’s energy on a web call, but leading by video takes time – I think too much time for one person to handle. CEOs are currently learning completely new skillsets to be do deals virtually and also be effective and compassionate leaders.
And while this is happening, second in commands are picking up the pace and having their moment in the spotlight. These top-tier workers are often organised, dependable and productive – the doers in the pack, frequently found at the right-hand side of the CEO. They are people who help other team members with tasks and keep the team on schedule and focused on goals.
Second in commands in our world also tend to not need that burst of energy you get from giving dynamic leadership to a group, and they work at a steadier pace with a m
ore considered approach to workload and engagement.
Usually stood happily in the shadows of a CEO, the second in commands are emerging as strong individuals in their own right. We all know the other C-suites are critical to the fortunes of companies, but this new working environment means it is their time to shine.
Showcase a different leadership skillset
Look around you and you will see how many second in commands, who are usually only known for their work internally, are taking on a much more high-profile and external-focussed role. I’m a second in command, and I know I am.
I am being pushed to not only oversee day-to-day operations (that ‘heads down’ work that is so often taken for granted)but also having to look at strategic, longer-term challenges the company may face – more of a ‘heads up’ role.
Covid has been an agent of change, bringing in more co-leadership, delegation, empowerment and facilitation for others in the team.
So, let’s hear it for the Chief Underwriters, Chief Finance Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Chief Counsels, Chief Risk Officers, and Chief Technology Officers… the shining second in commands out there. I salute you – welcome to your new roles.