(Extracted from www.casnocha.com: 16 lessons learnt working for Reid Hoffman.)
Every powerful person in the world is surrounded by people that help them. Sometimes their influence is obvious, for example: The CFO will have the ear of the CEO.
But sometimes their influence is masked by the lack of a fancy title. It could be a speech-writer, or a driver, or a PA, or a spouse. Just someone who’s nondescriptly standing in the room.
Ignore them at your peril. These people have the power to block your access to the CEO, or to turn the CEO against you with some well chosen words.
The simplest way to avoid disrespecting the shadow power in the room is to treat everyone the same, regardless of rank or seeming importance.
In other words, just be a kind and friendly person.
If you’re an ass, you’ll fail.