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  • Karen Gregory


Assistant Manager. Assistant Director. Assistant Vice President. Assistant Coach. Assistant Chief. Even Deputy Director. Deputy Chief. Deputy Treasurer. Leadership discussion is often implied as the leader at the highest level, but leadership is found in multiple levels of an organization. While leadership at the highest levels tests your leadership ability in new and interesting ways almost daily, “assistant” leadership promises its own set of unique challenges. The assistant leader must develop their skills to influence both up to the manager, and down to the employees. This one balancing act is a recurring topic brought up by participants in our leadership classes.

The manager defines the overall vision, goals and strategy and oftentimes delegates the responsibility of perfecting and implementing the strategy to the assistants. The manager deals with employee issues generally on a higher, more critical scale; the assistant interacts with employee behaviors and issues daily.

Leadership is equally important in both the role of manager and the role of assistant, and the working relationship between the manager and assistant is critical if the assistant hopes to be successful in implementing and perfecting the strategy of the organization’s vision and goals.

If you find yourself in an assistant role, keep these five tips in mind:

1. Your goal should be to develop a great, not good, working relationship with your immediate supervisor. The working relationship you have with your supervisor will determine the amount of freedom you will be entrusted with. That freedom will allow you to make decisions, to delegate tasks, and to ensure day-to-day operations are focused on the vision and goals of the organization. With trust your opinions and ideas will be listened to and considered, and you will be given growth opportunities for yourself to further your own career.

2. Even if you are not interested in furthering your career by moving up the corporate ladder, you should still make every effort to improve the skills and knowledge you currently have. You need to show an interest in growing yourself for the benefit of the organization and the people on your team.

3. Communication is key in your relationship with your supervisor as well as with your team. Make it a point to continue to develop your communication skills. A good communicator earns trust and builds influence with others. Good communicators build great teams and handle conflict well. There is no downside to communicating well. The tragedy is when you do not develop this skill of communicating!

4. As much as you need to know your supervisor and have a good working relationship with him or her, you need to do the same with those in your leadership. Know what excites them, and what doesn’t. Know the strengths they bring to the team, and know their weaknesses and who on the team can balance out that weakness. Know who is a quiet star who has great ideas but doesn’t share unless you ask, know who thrives on accolades and who doesn’t. Know your team. Know them, know them, know them.

5. Represent the vision and goals of the organization. Your leader needs to know you stand for the organization and you can be depended on to carry out that mission. Your team needs you to relay the mission, the vision, and the strategies to meet those goals. The mission is your measuring tool for success or failure. Use that measuring tool as a motivator for your team.

Assistants have a delicate balancing act they must successfully navigate to find success, but with it also comes great reward. It is a great position to be in! Finding success in being able to contribute in the strategy of carrying out the vision, and in motivating the team to accomplish those goals – I can’t think of a better place to be in leadership.


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