I have noticed a trend in a significant number of restructures towards removing the role of deputy director from the structure. In many ways I understand this because I think it is a very difficult role to define and where there is a lack of clarity around the authority the role has it often causes resentment amongst other members of the senior leadership team. However, in the few cases where the role of deputy and director are clearly delineated and the right people are in those roles it can be an incredibly powerful combination.
I believe that the skill set of a great director is markedly different to that of a great deputy – not better just different. This can mean that someone with the potential to be an exceptional director can be a fairly average deputy and vice versa.
So what are those skill sets? The two best partnerships I have worked with shared a very similar profile.
- Strong visionary
- Inspirational and passionate
- Willing and able to keep away from day to day issues
- An excellent relationship with his or her deputy with strong mutual respect
- Exceptional project management and organizational skills
- High emotional intelligence
- Respected for his or her even-handedness
- An excellent relationship with his or her director with strong mutual respect
- Well developed networks
I have worked with two ‘pairs’ that were the wrong way round and it made life very hard for both of them. If the organizational skills and attention to operational issues are the strengths of the director he or she may well spend too much time on detail and not enough on strategic areas. If however the deputy is the visionary, big picture person he or she can make life very uncomfortable for the director.
For me the key question this raises is whether it is the right career move to apply to be a deputy if your skill set and aspiration is to be a director and I think the answer is probably that it isn’t.