A deputy is also an under study of the top office. At the time of departure, the deputy can assume the top office after having studied it while deputising.
By Dr Lwanga Martin Mwanje
The office of the President and Deputy is perhaps one of the commonest in organisations. In education institutions, it features as headmaster and deputy.
In commercial financial institutions, it can be seen as with a managing director and executive director. There are corporate institutions where you have the president and a vice-president.
Technically, these two offices are critical for the efficient running of any organisation. In the first instance, they allow the continuity of the office of the head, in that where one is absent such can be easily deputised. Sometimes, the head can be out of country but as the saying goes the office never leaves. The deputy ensures the organization runs smoothly in the absence of the head.
A deputy is also an under study of the top office. At the time of departure, the deputy can assume the top office after having studied it while deputising. The deputy having seen much of how the head has been conducting affairs will not need much preparation to pick up where one has left. Hence it allows continuity.
There are abundant cases where the head and his deputy have worked seamlessly. One of these is President Barack Obama and his then deputy vice-president Joe Biden. Although Obama was much younger and less experienced in Washington politics and government, and in spite of the racial differences, these two carried on well that there is now a distinct possibility of Biden succeeding into the office Obama once deputised.
Unfortunately, not all heads and deputies get along. Indeed, there has been cases in US government where a president and his vice-president did not work out. One of those was between President Lyndon Johnson and his then Vice President Hubert Humphrey. It has long been noted how President Johnson openly despised his deputy, ever making Vice President Humphrey wait on him and assigning him the most unpleasant tasks.
There are a number of reasons why a head and his deputy may not work out. First, the conflict could start with structures where the terms of each office do overlap. In this instance, the deputy may have certain roles which the top thinks belong to his office. Unless that is resolved the two have been set on a collision course.
Secondly, there could be divided loyalties within the organisation or let's call them power blocs. Instances have been noted where a deputy commands considerable influence among the ranks, to the extent of feeling he is the one in charge. While the structure shows him as a deputy, he wields considerable power that dares that of the head. If this situation persists it certainly does not augur well for the organisation.
However, all that said, perhaps the most important cause of conflict has to do with the chemistry between the two individuals in those offices. If and when they get along as individuals all these issues can be sorted and handled. It is a different matter where the two don't see eye to eye. This bad blood between the two can easily spill over and affect the health of the organization.
When and where the two offices clash it is incumbent upon the Board as the overseer to ensure they do coexist harmoniously. This could start by making the two individuals understand they need to get along or else one has to go. Sometimes the Board needs to restructure the organisation and come up with clear terms of references for either to avoid overlap.
Yet the most important way forward is resolving personality differences. Many of that which can cause friction between the two offices can easily be resolved without involving any other party, if they of their own agree there is more at stake to lose by conflicting and it is best to resolve whatever differences for the good of the organisation.
The writer is the Dean and senior lecturer, Uganda Christian University School of Business. E mail: email@example.com