Close this search box.
Close this search box.

The CEO’s Secret Weapon: A Second Self

To be effective, a CEO must have an expert deputy at their side. Discover new ways to develop a thriving relationship with your assistant.

ceoIn The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker wrote “The executive is, first of all, expected to get the right things done”.  Long before Drucker uttered those famous words, generations of astute executives were working in trusted partnerships with assistants who constantly asked “What needs to be done and how do I make it happen?”

High-performing executive assistants ask this question because they know an assistant’s fundamental responsibility is to relieve their executive of tasks that waste their time. Incessantly looking for ways to make their executive’s life easier, assistants keep away minutiae that will hinder the executive’s productivity. Always one step ahead, they anticipate their executive’s needs and clearly understand their executive’s vision. Assistants serve as the executive’s “eyes and ears”, offering insights to rival anything gleaned from big data. Exceptional assistants understand their executive so thoroughly, they function as a seamless extension of the executive – a virtual second self.

“To be effective, a CEO must have an expert deputy at their side.”

I spent 20 years as an international executive assistant to successful businesspeople. Working by their side, I developed business acumen, judgment, expertise and confidence. I learned to deliver what every executive wants – certainty that as their deputy and face to the world, their assistant could be trusted to make sound decisions, would never embarrass them, or let them down. Dave Ramsey, CEO of Ramsey Solutions commented about his assistant, “I know beyond a shadow of doubt that my assistant has complete competency to make the right decision every single time.”

To be effective, a CEO must have an expert deputy at their side. Here are some ways to develop a thriving relationship with your assistant.

Stop micromanaging: If you have an exceptional assistant, get out of their way. As Donald Trump commented in my book, “I like people who can work independently. I’m too busy to get in their way and executives should find a better use of their time.”

Be accessible: Make time for your assistant. Communicate what matters to you. Richard Branson’s assistant told me “Richard included me in everything.” Develop rapport, engender trust. Branson remarked “There needs to be complete trust”, something Dave Ramsey echoed, “Show me two people who trust one another and I’ll show you an effective work relationship.”

Provide the tools they need: Be sensitive to their workload and give them the tools they need to get the job done.

Show confidence in them: Allow them to take on projects that will stretch their abilities and make the job interesting. Encourage initiative. It will build confidence and they’ll develop expert decision-making skills that serve you well.

Be respectful: Show your assistant consideration and courtesy. This is the person who constantly protects your interests.

Express gratitude: Management guru Ken Blanchard told me “Assistants give you the capacity to do so much more.” Once in a while, take time to acknowledge what your assistant does for you.

These simple habits are key to a productive relationship with your assistant that will keep them functioning seamlessly as your second self.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.