The one-sentence summary

Being a successful no.2 can be just as rewarding as being No.1.


  • This book is all about leading from the shadows, and it celebrates the role of the right-hand man, or consigliere (the name given to the closest adviser to mafia heads).
  • Much business writing emphasises that the key to success lies in getting to the top, but not everybody can be number one and, perhaps more importantly, not everyone wants to be.
  • Although it is easy to disparage the role of those who are ‘No.2’, these people often determine the fate of companies and countries.
  • “He’s a great no.2” is often regarded as synonymous with “He’ll never make no.1”, leading to what the author calls Second Syndrome.
  • In fact, As (top leaders) and Cs (consiglieri) share similar qualities founded on trust, credibility, confidence and emotional intelligence.
  • This can be expressed as an equation: LQ = TQ(C+C) x EQ, where:
  • LQ = Leadership Quotient
  • TQ = a multiple of your credibility times your confidence score
  • EQ = Emotional Quotient
  • Those with leadership aspirations should try both roles if possible before settling into one or the other.


  • The central message of the book is that the best leadership teams beat to a reciprocal drum. The A and C need to find out what makes each other tick.
  • Although leaders are often derided and regarded as selfish, they do in fact take many of the tasks and responsibilities that lesser mortals would not enjoy, nor possibly even be able to do.
  • Consiglieri enjoy spending a lifetime learning, bringing other people on, and from time to time making crucial interventions that have a deep bearing on what the A is doing.
  • To get the most out of everybody, consiglieri need to be at ease, reliable in their actions, driving new ideas, and brave enough at all times to tell the A what’s what. They are content, constant, catalytic and courageous.
  • There are many different types of consiglieri, including the lodestone (frees the A from management burdens), educators (inform and nurture), anchors (centres of authenticity), and deliverers (decisive influencers).
  • Helpful qualities for the C include knowing when to give counsel, knowing how to deliver bad news (well), and knowing when to stop.


  • Many of the examples are from politics, sport, and literature. It is pot luck what type you find stimulating.
  • Juggling large numbers of As and Cs can make some sentences hard to read at first until you get into a rhythm and familiar with the typologies.