Could You Do Your Boss’s Job?

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In America, it’s all about No. 1. CEOs, heads of state and police chiefs get all the press. No one spends a lot of time thinking about No. 2, the guy standing with his hands folded behind the podium as the star of the show hogs all the spotlight.

I was thinking about this last night as I watched The Sopranos. With Tony’s demise lurking like an FBI agent who won’t quit, who, I wondered, would–or could–take over the family business? Notwithstanding that episode earlier in the season where Tony appeared to promise the reins to his gentle brother-in-law, Sil would seem to be the obvious choice. He’s toiled long enough as No. 2, after all.

It’s not without precedent. At TimeWarner, my own employer, COO Jeff Bewkes is set to ascend to the throne once CEO Dick Parsons steps down. Bewkes proved his stuff by working long and hard at HBO, whose longtime chief, Chris Albrecht, was recently ousted after a public altercation with a woman. Now it seems Albrecht’s next-in-line, Michael Lombardo, is set to step into his shoes.


Two chiefs on the outs: HBO’s Albrecht and James Gandolfini’s Soprano.

It’s not easy being No. 2. But apparently, a lot of No. 2s think it’s easy being No. 1. According to a new survey by Korn/Ferry, the “global provider of talent management solutions”:

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of executives believe they can perform their boss’s job better than their current manager, according to the latest Executive Quiz from Korn/Ferry International. Moreover, nearly two-thirds (65%) of executives surveyed indicated that they aspire to attain their boss’s job.

But all those years of playing second fiddle leaves its mark. Many remain loyal:

Nevertheless, when asked to rate their boss’s performance, the largest percentage of executives (42%) marked it as either “excellent” or “above average,” while another 23% cited it as “average.” Fourteen percent of executives ranked their boss’s performance as “below average” and 11% deemed it “poor.” Additionally, when asked if they trust their boss, almost two-thirds of executives (65%) indicated that they did, while the other 35% said they did not.

Could you do your boss’s job? Could Little Stevie do Big Tony’s job? Full disclosure: I’m an episode behind in my Sopranos-watching, so don’t nobody spoil my speculation.

POST SCRIPT: Resident Sopranos expert Jim Poniewozik notes:

But remember, Sil did take over for Tony, beginning of season 6, when Tony was shot. Sil became a nervous wreck, and his health suffered. He revealed that he had been offered an opportunity to take over when Jackie Aprile died and turned it down.

I totally forgot. So clearly, the answer is no. And if you, like me, are Tivo-ing and an episode late, don’t under any circumstances read Jim’s blog.

I finally watched that last Sopranos episode. I guess Sil isn’t taking over anytime soon. Nor Bobby. Mama mia.