What surprised me though is how I actually helped - in most cases the way I could be most useful was to just show up, offer support, provide advice when asked and follow orders. Sure... in some cases, my presence helped practically (e.g. reach and carry stuff, get out and run errands, and I'm a fast proofreader/editor/form-checker), but my real value was in just being a good sidekick.
It made me realize how the value of a good sidekick is under-appreciated. In general, even as children, we're all taught to want to be good leaders and then management education, and indeed most professional career development, is about how to be one.
Sure, one reason to be a sidekick for a while is the whole "Before you can learn to lead you must learn to follow" thing, but there's another.
Life isn't just about getting out in front and grabbing glory and leading your fellow man (and woman!) Life is about getting things done and helping others get things done - often the best way you can do that is to accept a lesser role on a team and help make the team overall more successful.
But what makes a good sidekick? Here's what I thought as I did stuff over the last couple of weeks - though I had trouble with No 5. :-/
- Accepts/enjoys their role: a good sidekick knows they are the sidekick and is happy/comfortable with the role. They don't try undermine the person in charge; in fact often try to make sure its clear who is.
- Follows orders: A good sidekick understands that things don't need to be done their way. As long as things are heading in the right direction you don't challenge authority....
- Objects only when really, really, really necessary: ... except when you think something really bad might happen unless you do.
- Is a sounding board, making the leader more effective: always listens and talks often to the leader - almost everyone I know is better when they have someone to bounce their ideas off and help them through a process even if they're doing all the work. A person to 'talk at', instead of 'talk to', can help. A good sidekick is that person.
- Executes their part incredibly well: The leader can't be worried about if you're doing part your well. You just need to... consistently.
- Provides comic relief: not absolutely necessary for everyone... but it is for me. :-)