This is a great article on new Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s closest advisor and confident John Rogers.
I have always been fascinated by the role of close advisors to powerful people. In Washington it may be someone’s Chief of Staff. In business, it may simply be a loyal friend or mentor. In less high profile businesses it may only be a personal assistant (not corporate secretary) who manages appointments, gives advice, and funnels information to his or her boss.
Those who run a VIP’s inner-circle must possess certain important skills: cultivate the egos of your boss and of those trying to reach your boss, manage endless logistical details, hold deep subject matter expertise so as to provide an intellectual sounding board on the issues the VIP is thinking about, and most important, find a way to become indispensable.
Sales 101 says you must convince the gatekeeper and trusted advisors of the c-level executive before you convince the executive him/herself. This is not easy, for good reason: if someone’s inner circle could be easily penetrated it wouldn’t be very "inner"! But it’s well worth the effort. Even for me, far removed from the high flying world of D.C. or Wall Street, when one of the handful of people I respect the most asks me to do something it automatically moves to the top of the list. Since our relationship is deep and time-tested, he commands my instant attention and respect.
This is also relevant to networking. Say I want to strengthen my relationship with person X. One of the best ways to do this is not necessarily to focus exclusively on person X; instead, cultivate relationships with X’s other friends to create more shared bonds and points of entry.