If you have “assistant” in your job title, forget it. There’s nothing wrong or inaccurate about the word. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that assistant means a second-class position.
“A man who wants to lead the orchestra
must turn his back on the crowd.”
— Max Lucado
Let me attempt to restore the reputation of the word “assistant” using the story of John Havlicek, the NBA Hall of Fame basketball player.
Havlicek established himself as a superstar long before he was awarded a spot in the 5-man starting line-up with the Boston Celtics. He was so good at coming off the bench, that he kept that role and proudly wore the title of “Sixth Man” for about seven years, even after he had earned the right to be a starter. Havlicek was the best assistant in professional basketball. He was also a leader.
“Most people think of leadership as a position
and therefore don’t see themselves as leaders.”
— Stephen Covey
Celtics’ Coach Red Auerbach described Havlicek as the “guts of the team.” How could this be? He wasn’t even a starter for 40% of his career. Because great coaches understand the importance and value of a great cast of back-up players. Being the best Sixth Man is like being the number one assistant. Here are some of the characteristics that made Havlicek great and possibly the most important person on the team.
Havlicek, who was a soft-spoken man of integrity, led by example. He was always ready to enter the game. He had a tireless work ethic and tremendous endurance. His passion for the game and the team never wavered. He was versatile and could play more than one position. Because he seemed to be everywhere on the court, some opponents probably thought he played multiple positions at the same time. When the timing was right, Havlicek was ready to move into the starting line-up. He demonstrated his loyalty and commitment by playing his entire pro career with one team. In 1996, John J. Havlicek was named to the top 50 NBA players of all time. Not bad for someone who established his reputation as an “assistant.”
If you are an assistant and see your role as anything less than crucial to the success of your organization, you have a perception problem not a position problem. When your perception devalues the true importance of your role, you have the wrong attitude and are responsible for sabotaging your career.
“It is your attitude, not your aptitude,
that determines your altitude.”
— Zig Ziglar
Ignore what others might think about your title. Instead, focus on the true meaning and significance of the word “assistant.” Find ways to become the best “Sixth Man” you can be by assisting others to be the best they can be. That’s leadership as an assistant!