Elite AgentOPINION

Always the bridesmaid, and that’s OK…

Traditionally, career-minded professionals are taught to aim for the top. Becoming the big boss is viewed as the epitome of success; anything less is just second place. But what if second in charge is where you fit best? Kylie Dulhunty examines whether there’s more to good leadership than having the top title.

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

It’s a saying shrouded in negativity. It highlights that you’re forever in second place, the supporting actress and not the star.

You’re the 2IC but never the boss.

It’s a phrase that popped into my mind recently as I walked down the aisle, teetering on heels as high as Mt Everest, in support of my youngest sister tying the knot. She was the bride and I, along with two others, were bridesmaids.

Admittedly, we three bridesmaids were already married. Yet it made me wonder – when it comes to leadership, why is 2IC viewed as second best?

Why can’t middle management be the destination, rather than just part of the journey to the top?

Perhaps just as importantly, doesn’t being a good numero uno involve being able to delegate?

Using my sister’s wedding as an analogy once again, it’s safe to say the big day wouldn’t have been as smooth or successful without the bridesmaids.

Without my sister’s canny ability to prioritise and delegate, we could have been faced with a wedding horror story rather than a fairytale.

Let’s face it, had she tried to do it all something would have had to give. Instead my dear kid sister can proudly tout that her tally of ‘bridezilla’ moments was astoundingly kept at zero.

We ‘second place’ bridesmaids all had tasks we needed to perform, including passing on quotes as well as venue and vendor suggestions, helping write the wedding day run schedule and sourcing and presenting beautifully arranged bathroom emergency repair kits for the wedding guests should they stub their toe or want to ward off tomorrow’s hangover with a painkiller.

Why can’t middle management be the destination, rather than just part of the journey to the top?

Throughout my career, first as a newspaper journalist and editor and now running my own media content service, I’ve had to learn how to step up – but also how to let go.

I’ve held a lot of middle management and second-in-charge roles, be they as a sub-editor, a chief reporter or an acting editor.

Never once did I equate second in charge as second best.

Yet it wasn’t uncommon for those who didn’t know me well to question how long before I was the boss and in first place.

When I told them I was exactly where I wanted to be they looked dumbfounded, as though taking out the silver medal was a sign of failure and not a sign that I’d trumped many others to get to this point.

Similarly, now that I am out on my own I’ve had to learn to ask for help when I need it. I’ve had to learn to rely on trusted contractors to help me get the job done and get it done right.

Letting others nurse what is essentially my baby didn’t come naturally. I’ve had to learn to let the reins go.

I tried to do each job entirely on my own, and for a while that worked just fine.

However, as my workload increased, I realised I had to do less, not more. So I now have a trusted team of ‘bridesmaids’ I can call on when large projects come in.

The key to making this work has been to provide quality, sound training.

Not just skills-based training but training in how my business runs, work expectations and standards, and on how to put their hand up and ask for help if they hit speed bumps themselves.

In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learnt:

  • It’s acceptable, and even desirable, for 2IC to be your number one. You do you and let others worry about themselves and their career goals.
  • The bride may seemingly take all the glory, but there is no wedding without a bridesmaid or three to help you get there.
  • Create a team and coach. You can’t be everywhere at once and cloning machines are still a thing of fantasy, so get good people around you.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate. Good leaders know when they can’t do it all.


Show More

Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.