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Why the Second-In-Command May Be the Secret to Success at America’s Most Iconic Companies

CEO’s often get a bulk of the credit for the success of a business. While they do deserve the credit they recieve, the people working below them behind the scenes are often the real people providing huge value to their companies.

New research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that it’s possible to learn more about business leadership from the second-in-command executive, rather than the CEO of a company. They found that success more often than not has to do with being in the right place at the right time, rather than having extreme ability. As a result, the highest performers may not have the highest expected ability and may not be the people we want to imitate or praise at a company.

To help better illustrate this point, a hiring methodology consulting firm named Topgrading, compiled a list of executives who were second-in-command at Americans most powerful companies. The reason behind doing this was to measure the impact of these second-in-command executives by looking at several factors:

  • Time with the company
  • Time in their current role
  • Their compensation for 2016
  • Their educational background
  • Career history
  • Current responsibilities within their role at the organization

They then broke down what they found and turned it into an in-depth analysis and accompanying infographic. Let’s explore some of the interesting takeaways from their analysis and highlight some of the more notable second-in-command’s.

The snapshot of an average number two

  • Been with their respective company an average of 21 years
  • In their current role for over 5 years
  • Earned roughly $17.5 million in 2016
  • Harvard educated

Notable number two’s

Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook

Current role – COO

Time with company- 9 years

2016 Compensation- $18,698,969

Net worth- $1.6 billion

Background- Before joining Facebook, she worked for Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and for Google as VP of global sales. In 2008, she was recruited by Zuckerberg to help make Facebook profitable.

Responsibilities- Responsible for Facebook’s global presence as well as managing sales, marketing business development, legal, HR, public policy, privacy and communications.

Charles Munger – Berkshire Hathaway

Current role – Vice Chairman

Time with company – 40 years

2016 Compensation – $100,000

Net worth – $1.47 billion

Background – Before joining Berkshire Hathaway, Munger ran Wesco Financial Corporation, a highly successful investment firm which was acquired by Berkshire. He also founded two other small investment firms.

Responsibilities – His role is primarily an advisory role. Because of his age he is not a candidate to succeed Warren Buffett.

Anthony Noto – Twitter

Current role – COO and CFO

Time with company – 3 years

2016 Compensation – $23,776,067

Background – Prior to joining Twitter, Noto worked as a managing director at Goldman Sachs, then CFO for the NFL. After two years with the NFL, Noto returned to Goldman before moving to Twitter to serve as CFO.

Responsibilities – Noto oversees the company’s business operations and revenue generating organizations, including global advertising, sales, global partnerships, business development, live content, data and revenue.

To see the full list, check out the infographic below which analyzes the backgrounds of 25 notable American executives that rank as the number two person at their respective companies.

Also be sure to read ‘The 10 Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned As a Start-Up Entrepreneur

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