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Supporting Leader

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Aragorn: Draw out Sauron's armies. Empty his lands. Then we gather our full strength and march on the Black Gate.
Éomer: We cannot achieve victory through strength of arms.
Aragorn: Not for ourselves. But we can give Frodo his chance if we keep Sauron's Eye fixed upon us. Keep him blind to all else that moves.

The Supporting Leader is a secondary character who leads the forces of good in their struggle against the Big Bad. He isn't The Protagonist of the series, and he might not be The Hero either, but generally gets a spotlight episode focusing on some important battle right as the actual heroes are off performing whatever task winds up actually saving the day. This character is often the Deuteragonist.

The Brigadier and The Captain may be his underlings. The heroes who actually defeat the Big Bad may also be in his or her chain of command, but they're more likely to be an independent force of their own; their personal struggle is usually for the Golden Snitch while the Supporting Leader keeps the Big Bad from winning by default.

Found in pretty much any story with a Kid Hero. One of the surrounding adults will take on the role.

A variation of this is common in gaming, where following an initial battle, the player's nominal superior will tell them that the main battle is in hand and they need to proceed to the special objective that is the real centerpiece of the mission.

Sometimes this character will be the true hero of the story, and the central character will be the Supporting Protagonist. When the leader is the protagonist, rather than a secondary hero, it's A Protagonist Shall Lead Them.

Compare Big Good, Greater-Scope Paragon, and The Lancer. Contrast with Hero Protagonist. If the battle scenes seem like they'd be pretty interesting in their own right, this character may be the Hero of Another Story.

A specific Sub-Trope to The Leader naturally.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ace of the Diamond: Yuuki Tetsuya is The Captain of the Seidou High baseball team during the first half of the first year, and after the third years retire, Miyuki becomes the new team captain. Becomes subverted during Act II, as with Sawamura becoming The Ace, the two share a co-leadership position, with Sawamura acting as The Heart to drive their teammates forward, while Miyuki calls the shots and directs them on the field.
  • Griffith from Berserk, during the Golden Age arc. He's the commander of the Band of the Hawk, but somehow Guts always winds up doing all the grunt work.
  • Bubblegum Crisis: Though Sylia is the leader of the Knight Sabres, her role is secondary to Priss, who is the PoV character of the series. Which is justified since Sylia spends much of her screentime operating behind-the-scenes in secret meetings with high-level businessmen and government officials, who act as her eyes and ears so she can keep tabs on the Genom Corporation's activities. Which also makes her the Big Good.
  • In Claymore, Miria is this as leader of Clare's group of Claymores and the main Deuteragonist of the series. Miria is the one who takes on the Organization who is behind the creation of the Yoma and is using their island as a giant research lab, while Clare is searching for Raki and seeks to take revenge on Priscilla.
  • In Dragon Ball:
  • Food Wars!: Konishi is this to the Don Research Society. His cooking skills are trumped by several of his subordinates, and he rarely gets into scraps, but is invaluable to the Don RS due to his near-encyclopedic knowledge of donburi, his ability to provide accurate recipe feedback and his top-notch administrational skills.
  • Roy Mustang of Fullmetal Alchemist. Protagonists Edward and Alphonse Elric are only teenagers, and while Edward does have a certain clout of his own (his military rank is major), Ed isn't the strongest of leaders, and the two are somewhat preoccupied with their own quest to get their bodies back. Mustang is a colonel and already leads a group of people intensely loyal to him (plus he's Ed's boss), so he takes up most leadership roles when it comes to organization against the bad guys.
  • This is common in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, with the leader generally being a main character that isn't the part's main JoJo. To quote, "The majority of the Joestar Groups are not led by the main JoJo, but rather by an ally", or a previous part's JoJo:
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood: the group "was initially led by Will Anthonio Zeppeli before his death, all the while he was teaching Jonathan Joestar the basic mechanics of the Ripple". Jonathan Joestar remains, however, the main character.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency: the group "was led by Lisa Lisa, the Ripple Instructor of Joseph Joestar and Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli, as well as the strategic leader in the war against the Pillar Men". That being said, her students, especially Joseph, have much more screentime, fights and focus on their characters.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: Joseph Joestar returns as the leader of the party and makes most of their decisions, but the story mainly follows Jotaro Kujo.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable: Jotaro Kujo returns as the leader behind the investigation into the murders in Morioh Town, but the plot follows Josuke Higashikata.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: Team Bucciarati is led by Bruno Bucciarati due to him being the direct superior of every member, in addition to him acting as a "Team Mom" to the group in general. That being said, the story's main character is Giorno Giovanna.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean: Averted. Jolyne Cujoh, the main JoJo, is also the leader of the party, and remains as such even when her father Jotaro Kujo joins said party.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Steel Ball Run: Downplayed. While Gyro Zeppeli is more or less some sort of mentor to the main character Johnny Joestar due to teaching him the Spin, the duo is closer to a partnership than any form of leadership.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: JoJolion: Averted once more. It's Josuke's will to uncover his identity that is drive behind his and Yasuho Hirose's actions and later he joins up with Rai Mamezuku in order to retrieve the New Locacaca branch.
  • Jewelpet Kira☆Deco!: Retsu is The Leader of the Kira Deco 5, but the show actually follows Pink.
  • Kuroko's Basketball: With the exception of Akashi and Hanamiya, The Captain is always someone different than The Ace. Despite their lack of talent in comparison to their respective aces, the captains are usually older and much more mature and keep the team in line and they have other qualities that make them suitable for the job.
  • Admiral Lindy Harlaown in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. In both seasons, she's Chrono's superior, the latter being the Enforcer who is investigating the respective incidents, and in both cases, Nanoha, our heroine, is working under Lindy's and Chrono's command.
    • Hayate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, as she's the founder and commander of Riot Force 6. The protagonist is either Nanoha or Subaru, depended on how you view it. Although, in the end, Hayate takes the main credit for solving the JS Incident.
  • Orga Itsuka in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans; while he is not the protagonist (that goes to his friend Mikazuki), he is the leader of the entire Tekkadan PMC and commands the boys both from the frontline and the sidelines.
  • In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Mendoza is very much a Supporting Leader to the child hero Esteban. Subverted a bit in that he's a lot more morally ambiguous than most other examples of this trope, being more the Lovable Traitor than anything else.
  • Gaara in Naruto. Despite being relatively young, he commands an entire battalion and is Regimental Commander to boot.
    • In a way, this has been Kakashi's role since the start of Shippuden as Naruto's team leader. Further reinforced in the Great Fourth Ninja War when he serves as Third division General and, eventually, sixth Hokage.
    • Shikamaru often plays this role also. He even got his very own story arc.
  • An event in Negima! Magister Negi Magi that happened before the series takes place the main character's parents had this kind of relationship with the mother, Princess Arika, serving as The Aragorn to the father, The Thousand Master in his fight against the Big Bad who was known as "The Life Maker" and "The Mage of the Beginning". Though neither Arika nor her forces actually help the Thousand Master in his fight as he defeated the Mage of the Beginning shortly before they arrived. But they DID suppress and seal the World Destroying Apocalyptic Magic that was released as "The Ritual to Return the World to Nothing" was completed. So after saving the world they at some point had hot sex and thus the greatest Chick Magnet/Shounen Lead the world has ever seen was born.
  • Patlabor: Shinobu Nagumo and Kiichi Gotoh are the captains of the SVU's 1st and 2nd divisions respectively. While both are crucial to the overall narrative, the series mainly focuses on officers Noa Izumi and her partner, Asuma Shinohara.
  • Few champions in Pokémon Adventures tend to be this, with Steven in Hoenn being a good example. Despite being the strongest trainer in his region and leading the Elite Four, it's up to Ruby and Sapphire to ultimately solve the conflict.
  • Rebuild World: Sheryl is this for a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits Antihero Team that becomes of the slumlord gang Akira installs her in charge of, relying on Guile Hero Battle of Wits skills as well as on Akira's reputation to Appeal to Force. Her own motivation in the whole arrangement is half being terrified for her own survival, and half Dogged Nice Girl. Basically, Akira can't be bothered with politics and has No Social Skills, so pushes it on her, resulting in his corporate allies who act as The Team Benefactor helping him through helping Sheryl's gang, which along with his training and donations, builds it up to the point where the Private Military Contractor former Street Urchin boys under her fit the Men of Sherwood trope and start taking on a Law Enforcement, Inc. role from their Home Base fortress in the slums, where Sheryl rules over the other slum lords in a quasi-feudal arrangement through Shijima.
  • King Fahn in Record of Lodoss War, and King Kashue in its sequel, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. The main hero of the former, Parn, becomes another Aragorn in the latter as the focus shifts to a younger hero.
  • Slam Dunk: Akagi is this in series. Uozumi is also this from Ryonan's perspective, as everyone sees Sendoh as the real hero of the team.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog in season 1 of Sonic X. Let's not kid ourselves. Chris is the main character there.
  • In Space Battleship Yamato, Admiral Gideon fills this role taking on the Comet Empire's main space fleet while the Hero's ship is engaging a smaller task force. This of course leads to the Hero's ship being the only one to survive.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kittan has this role. Though Simon becomes the official leader of Team Dai Gurren after Kamina's death, his status as a One-Man Army means he often is off facing the enemy leader or another large threat while the rest of the team fights off the mooks, with Kittan leading them. Yoko even literally calls him this, saying Simon was the leader that pulled them up while Kittan supported them from below. Dayakka is a lesser example, commanding the team's battleship.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: The Tritagonist Reiji is the leader of the Lancers, which includes The Hero and The Protagonist Yuya. Even though Reiji is dealing with the main villains, the story follows Yuya's POV more often than Reiji's, especially since Reiji is left Out of Focus due to his voice actor's commitments.

    Card Games 
  • In the Weatherlight storyline of Magic: The Gathering, Eladamri, king of the Skyshroud elves, and Lin Sivvi, champion of the Vec tribe of humans, lead the ground forces of Dominaria's Coalition against the demonic Phyrexians while the scruffier main cast of heroes takes the fight directly to the Big Bad, Yawgmoth.

    Comic Books 
  • Miho is a silent and deadly ninja woman who is one of the most skilled "heroes" in Sin City. She is usually the one Dwight McCarthy relies on to kill mooks while he carries the plot as the main character. She has never been the protagonist in any of the stories she has appeared in.
  • Nightwing, whenever he appears outside of his own series, is inevitably leading something, be it the Outsiders, the Titans, or even the Justice League.
  • Professor Xavier usually serves as this when he is leader of the X-Men, especially in the early days. Even though he founded the school, he's rarely in the spotlight.
  • Sally Acorn in Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) is usually this. While she leads the Freedom Fighters, it's usually Sonic or the other Freedom Fighters that do the heavy lifting. She's taken a much more active role ever since the reboot, but still fits the trope.

    Fan Works 
  • Henry and Takeru during the final battle in the Tamers Forever Series lead the main offensive against Daemon and his army respectively while Takato is dying.
  • Inner Demons: During the Final Battle, this role falls to the Princesses and Shining Armor, who lead the charge against Queen!Twilight's armies while the Element bearers and Apple Bloom go after Queen!Twilight herself.
  • In Ace Combat: The Equestrian War, Rainbow Dash takes this role whenever the Mirage squadron splits. She leads one group while Firefly leads the other.
    • Ditto for Twilight Sparkle, who, in later part of the story, commands a strike team selected to liberate Canterlot and pony ground forces during the Final Battle.
  • The Immortal Game: Princess Luna serves this role for most of the story, especially after Twilight Sparkle is appointed official leader of the Loyalists. During the Final Battle, she ends up sharing the role with Celestia.
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls: Death the Kid to Maka Albarn. Best seen in the Cobra Island arc: the whole reason Medusa turns Maka into a coward is to leave the group without a leader and ensure chaos among them. Kid steps up to the plate and takes over, thwarting that. It makes sense since he’s destined to be THE next Grim Reaper.
  • Star Trek: Phoenix: James Liang is the captain of the Phoenix, the ultimate commanding voice in its mission and running, and the primary authority figure for the story's main cast. He is however a secondary character, as the narrative focuses on Sunset and Twilight instead, who are subordinate members of his crew.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • Princess Leia is the defacto leader of the Rebellion through all three movies, her main strength is diplomacy, she's tough as nails and withstood Cold-Blooded Torture during her imprisonment on the Death Star and didn't give up any information (she did talk plenty of shit to her captors even after said torture though, and even with the threat of her people being genocided she still put the Rebellion over her own interest) and she engages in every firefight in every movie! The instant Luke breaks her out of her cell she takes charge of the situation and gets them to safety. She has to almost literally be dragged out of the Rebel HQ on Hoth even when it's being bombed to crap. She leads the charge to save Han; she's the first of the group to sneak into Jabba's Palace and almost succeeds in freeing him, and afterwards despite ending up in an outfit that's the epitome of fanservice, ultimately is the one who ends up killing Jabba (in a surprisingly brutal way). Then on Endor she's the one who softens the Ewoks up to make way for an alliance that ultimately wins the war. She leads the strike team against the shield generator, and is prepared to go out in a blaze of glory, taking as many Stormtroopers with her as she can even after getting shot.
    • Mace Windu personally leads the Jedi Order in rescuing Obi Wan and Anakin in Attack of the Clones.
    • Admiral Ackbar commands the Rebel fleet during the climax of Return of the Jedi, while Lando Calrissian personally destroys the second Death Star from within, and Han Solo leads a band of rebels to take down its shields on the forest moon of Endor.
  • Optimus Prime was mildly downgraded from main hero to Supporting Leader for protagonist Sam in the live-action Transformers movie.
  • Prince Barin in Flash Gordon (1980). Vultan fills this role to a certain extent as well, but Barin more so.
  • Hector Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean. At the climax of At World's End, as Jack seeks out the Dead Man's Chest and fights Davy Jones for it, Barbossa engages the Flying Dutchman itself. Hector gets some real zippy one-liners in the process.
  • Ardeth Bey in the first two The Mummy Trilogy movies. He leads the secret society tasked with keeping Imhotep in his sarcophagus, but Rick and Evie are the main heroes of the series.
  • Madmartigan in Willow eventually leads the rebel army while Willow takes care of the Big Bad.
    • Airk fits the trope better though, since he's in command of the rebel army for most of the movie, whereas Madmartigan is basically a lone wolf and only takes charge after Airk is killed by General Kael.
  • Throughout the first Smokey and the Bandit, it's the Bandit's entire purpose to keep the cops distracted (essentially a professional Aragorn if he weren't the main character) so his partner Snowman can break every speed limit in the world and get their cargo in on time. However, when the cops start to get really serious, and it looks like the end for The Bandit, Snowman decides to take some heat off his friend for a change and show everyone what an 18-wheeler can do to a police barricade only expecting to stop a trans-am.
  • In Casablanca, Victor Laszlo. The resolution to the romantic plot revolves entirely around Rick acknowledging that Victor is way, way more important than he is.
  • The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, the group groans when Game Master Lodge introduces Sir. Osric as the accompanying NPC that will hog all the glory. Subverted when he is De Powered and subsequently killed, leaving them to figure out the Final Boss by themselves.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Lt. Aldo Raine could be seen as this, since he leads the "good" soldiers in a Pay Evil unto Evil Rampage that plays into Shosanna's more personal revenge plot. It's all in your point of view, really.
  • Stella Yamada of Lemonade Mouth. She's the one who's in charge of the band, so you might as well have her the main character and lead singer of the band rather than Olivia, who the story actually follows.
  • The Muppets (2011): Kermit the Frog acts as supporting leader in movies where he isn't the focus, playing Captain Smollett in Muppet Treasure Island and As Himself in Muppets from Space. Gonzo and Rizzo even lampshade his Rousing Speech in the commentary of the latter because he pretty much gets one in every movie.
  • Buliwyf in The 13th Warrior is the hero Viking leader, but Ibn is the protagonist.

  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Lord of the Rings.
      • Aragorn. Remarkably, he is completely cognizant of the fact that his role is to divert enemy forces away from the real heroes, rather than actually saving the day himself. Arguably, Tolkien uses the ability to see oneself as merely one strand of a larger struggle or story as a mark of the humility that MAKES a leader great. He's the former Trope Namer for a reason.
      • In broader terms, Gandalf's entire reason for being could be considered this. As a Wizard sent to Middle-earth by the gods, his role was to oppose Sauron and his influence and to aid those opposing him. He often acts as The Chessmaster and The Man Behind the Man but also gets down and dirty himself.
    • Bard, the secondary character from The Hobbit, who slays the dragon Smaug and leads the men in the final battle.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain: Prince Gwydion, the strong, brave and wise war leader to High King Math, is one of the most beloved and universally respected figures in all of Prydain. He becomes a mentor figure to the main character, Taran, who looks up to and idolizes Gwydion immensely.
  • H.I.V.E. Series: Raven serves as a protector for all of the main characters, leading the young protagonists while on missions, and conducting the majority of the rescue missions. The series has been gradually shifting towards a center around her, leaving Otto more and more as a Supporting Protagonist.
  • Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series subverts this trope by having a supporting character leading the Royal Army in the first book, and then turning traitor and leading the Army in a coup in the second book.
  • Buliwyf from Eaters of the Dead is the leader of the Norse against the Wendol, though the main character is Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, a visiting Arab.
  • Merriman Lyon in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. In the first book, he plays the friendly uncle and acts as a sort of guide and guardian to the main characters. In the second book, he's graduated to serving as the mentor figure to another main character. By the third book he finally starts doing things the audience is made privy to, but he's still clearly playing second fiddle to the main characters of the earlier books. He basically skips the fourth book entirely, only to assume a bit more importance in the finale (but still not as much as the other main characters).
    • In some ways, Will, the second book's hero, becomes Bran's support in the fourth book. While the story is still told from Will's point-of-view, most of what is actually accomplished in the book is entirely Bran's doing.
  • Another example of the "child protagonists" type - Konstam Khan in The Homeward Bounders. He's genuinely noble and heroic, and the Five-Man Band wouldn't have a hope of winning against Them without him, but it's not his story.
  • Polgara in The Belgariad. True, the Army of the West were inspired by Ce'Nedra and led by the Alorn Kings, but they all look to her for guidance. She even goes as far as bluntly saying that all they do is "make a lot of noise so Belgarion can slip over to confront Torak"
  • Harry Potter has a few of these:
    • Dumbledore is generally this across the first few books. He's the Headmaster of Hogwarts, leader of the Order of the Phoenix, and a legendary Old Master, but in many cases he's content to simply get Harry where he needs to be.
    • In The Deathly Hallows, Professor McGonagall leads the defense in the Battle for Hogwarts to give the Power Trio the time to find the final Horcrux, even though she has to trust Harry by his words alone.
    • Also Neville Longbottom, yes that Neville Longbottom, serves as this amongst his classmates while Harry spends most of the book searching for Horcruxes.
    • Kingsley Shacklebolt essentially takes on Dumbledore's role in leading the Order after the latter's death (well, Moody arguably did first, but he dies about a month later), but he and Harry barely interact in the seventh book.
  • A Hole in the Fence: Raclot is the leader of the band of children who intend to sneak into the Forbidden Zone and discover its secrets. He is the one who comes up with plans and strategies, and the one who takes responsibility when their attempts fail. However, the story follows his friend and eventual second-in-command Grisón.
  • Several in the Codex Alera series.
    • Bernard sort of. In the first two books, he organizes the militia's defense against the invading threats. If it hadn't been for him, the reinforcements would have come too late. Something similar happened in the sixth book, although it can't really count as this trope because by then the person leading the reinforcements is the Big Good himself. In later books this trope doesn't really fit, but in the first two he definitely qualifies.
    • Gaius Sextus is the official ruler of Alera, and he's good at it. The only problems are (a) he's getting old enough that he can't take care of everything himself, (b) a Succession Crisis is undermining his legitimacy, and (c) a big Outside-Context Problem has been awakened. If not for that stuff, he wouldn't be a Supporting Leader, he'd just be the actual leader. Several books follow Tavi as he deals with problems that Sextus could have taken care of himself except for the fact that he was incapacitated, or busy doing something even more important.
    • Ehren is an... odd example. As he developed, he Took a Level in Badass, eventually becoming adviser to the First Lords Gaius and Attis (and I doubt Tavi will be quick to ignore his advice, either). Looking back on things, the entire war might not have been won had it not been for the little (or big) things he did.
  • Robb Stark and Stannis Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire are the leaders of the "good" Stark and Baratheon forces, but aren't two of the books' many PoV characters - their actions are viewed from the perspective of Robb's mother Catelyn, Stannis' right hand man Davos, and Jon Snow-Robb's brother and Stannis' ally.
  • Bigwig from Watership Down. He faces off against the Big Bad in the Burrows, and Woundwort actually thinks he's the Big Good - and is even successfully bluffed into retreating, after the two have fought to a mutually exhausted standstill, by Bigwig's admission that he is NOT the warren's chief. (Woundwort expects anyone who can boss Bigwig to be an even bigger and tougher rabbit... not a thinker who is still semi-lame from an old injury.) Turns out Bigwig is just buying time for Hazel's plan to come into fruition.
  • Bluestar in Warrior Cats: The Original Series. She usually sends Fireheart off to do important tasks while she holds off the villains long enough for him to complete them. And, in Omen Of The Stars, Ivypool seems to be taking this role.
  • In the X-Wing Series, squadron leader Wedge Antilles is kind of an odd example, since he's one of the main characters and is along for the ride the whole time. He counts, though, because except in Starfighters of Adumar he undergoes no character development and is slightly out of focus, and the people under his command are usually the ones who score the absolute critical hits.
  • The four Great Captains in The Wheel of Time — they each command one of the Light's armies in Tarmon Gaidon, but only three of them have even been PoV characters, and only two of them for more than three books prior to that role.
    • Matrim Cauthon grows into this role for the Dragon Reborn, the Seanchan Empress, and the later commands the final battle of Tarmon Gaidon. By the end of the that battle he's generally considered to be the most brilliant general in the world. Despite all of that, he's not a reincarnating prophesied savior with enough magical power to challenge Satan.
    • Elayne also plays this role as strategic leader for the forces of Light in Tarmon Gaidon.
    • Several factions have institutionalized this role, especially when it's a commander supporting a Channeller.
  • Sword of Truth has both sides go through a large number of these. Given that half of the series is devoted to fighting a war, it's not that surprising.
  • Honor Harrington may be a certified badass who leads entire fleets into battle, but even she is just one of many admirals who serve Queen Elizabeth of Manticore and Protector Benjamin of Grayson (two different Supporting Leaders, due to Honor swearing fealty to two different monarchs. It's a bit complicated.) In the earlier books, Admiral Hamish Alexander, Earl of White Haven, served as this for Honor when she was a starship commander.
  • Vikus from The Underland Chronicles. He runs Regalia while Gregor, Luxa, and their friends fulfill the prophecies. His wife Solovet also counts, as head of the human military, though she tends to fall into the Knight Templar area.
  • Rudd Threetrees' actions shape The First Law trilogy's events, but Threetrees himself isn't a viewpoint character. Ultimately, this honor falls to his Second, the Dog Man, who takes his place after Threetrees' death.
  • The de facto leaders(mayors) of Draeze, the attacked city in A Harvest of War are the ultimate leaders of the resistance but second-stringers in terms of character dynamics.
  • Second Apocalypse: In the Aspect Emperor trilogy, Apperens Saccarees is the Grandmaster of the Mandate and the Exalt-Magus of the Great Ordeal, making him the leader of the most important wing of the entire army. After Serwa and Kellhus himself, he might be the third-most powerful sorcerer in the history of Earwa. However, he's featured very little in the narrative and has only a single, short POV section.
  • In military science fiction Victoria, the early story has Governor Adams in this role, and later William Kraft when he succeeds him. Both have an excellent working relationship with protagonist John Rumford, the Confederation's military chief of staff.
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, the leaders of the Varden, dwarves, and elves (at first Ajihad, Hrothgar, and Islanzadi, then later Nasuada and Orik) do most of the actual waging war on Galbatorix, while Eragon and Saphira are off training. King Orrin of Surda also leads his country in an alliance with the Varden.

    Live-Action TV 
  • John Sheridan started out as this (and The Captain) in Babylon 5, but morphed into the main character for the whole series.
  • Chousei Kantai Sazer X: Commander Shark is the leader of Sazer-X and mentor to most of their members, but the main protagonist is Takuto Ando. Notably, the Final Battle sees Shark on the sidelines after his mecha is damaged, watching Takuto and the others with pride.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In some early episodes of the original series, the Doctor was an Aragorn for companion characters such as Ian Chesterson, although the Doctor was clearly the main protagonist. This was most likely because the first actor to play the Doctor, William Hartnell, was elderly (or close to it) and mostly unsuitable for physical action. As a result, the Doctor would do the thinking, planning, and handle the purely cerebral battles with the villains, while a younger companion took care of the physical action as necessary. This was especially true near the end of Hartnell's tenure when his health was failing. According to the original series bible for the show, the role of the Doctor was initially intended to be secondary to the companions Susan, Ian and Barbara. But then again, the initial format was intended to be more of an educational show than an actual sci-fi series.
    • By the Third Doctor era, The Brigadier was this. It was usually a case of UNIT holding off the Monster of the Week while the Doctor deals with the Big Bad, or the Master, or both.
    • Jack Harkness is generally this to the Doctor whenever he turns up.
  • On ER, the doctors with the most authority are usually the least-seen. In the early seasons, the chief of Emergency Medicine (that is, the boss of the titular emergency room) wasn't even a regular character. Only once was the star of the show also the Chief (Luka), and that lasted less than two seasons.
  • Name a cop show, and chances are the lead character(s) will be street-level detectives while The Captain or whoever they report to are supporting characters. The Chief of Police, the Commissioner, or anyone higher than The Captain likely won't be seen much, and may even be a Bad Boss. The exception to this rule is when the main/central character is THE Chief (The Commish, Blue Bloods).
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Averted in the television series with Robb Stark. While Robb fits this in the novels, he is upgraded to the status of the other leads in the onscreen adaptation where his status as leader of the Northern rebellion receives a significant amount of airtime.
    • Since Season 6 revealed that Bran is the new Three-Eyed Raven and that Jon was the Hidden Backup Prince, it is clear that Jon is the Aragorn to Bran's Frodo.
    • Despite Yara Greyjoy having the authority, Theon is still the main Greyjoy character of the series.
  • Kamen Rider Wing Knight/Len has become one of them for being a cool leader.
  • While in Super Sentai/ and it's American adaption Power Rangers, Red Rangers will almost always be the main protagonists of their show, they wouldn't always be the leader, as seen in a few examples:
    • In Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, the team's leader is Tsuruhime/Ninja White, so she gets an equal amount of character development and badass moments as Sasuke/Ninja Red as a result. The same goes for ''the Mighty Morphin Alien Ranger's leader, Delphine.
    • Denji Sentai Megaranger has MegaBlack being the default leader in spite of MegaRed's central role in battle. note 
    • In Mirai Sentai Timeranger, Yuri/Time Pink is the leader of the Timerangers. Same goes for Jen Scotts/Time Force Pink in Power Rangers Time Force.
    • Mahou Sentai Magiranger also had a form of this- Kai Ozu is the youngest of his siblings, but is MagiRed; the oldest, Makito, is MagiGreen instead. note 
    • In Juken Sentai Gekiranger, Ran Uzaki/GekiYellow is promoted to leadership in the middle of the series. This didn't carry over to Power Rangers Jungle Fury, where the leader is the Red Ranger as usual.
    • Tsuyoshi Kaijou/Akaranger becomes this in the legendary war in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger as the leader of the combined Super Sentai teams.
  • Jason of Star Command; Commander's Canarvin (James Doohan) and Stone (John Russel) were this to the titular Jason.
  • Lara Roslin in Battlestar Galactica (2003) was the leader of the fleet and (technically) Bill Adama's boss. Lee Adama got in on the act during the New Caprica arc, leading the counterattack when the fleet made their escape.
  • Merlin, in which the legendary King Arthur is the deuteragonist.
  • Barry Allen may be the hero of The Flash (2014), but Dr Harrison Wells is the head of S.T.A.R. Labs, and functions as the leader of their secret crime-fighting team. Until he's revealed to be the villain, and in the following season replaced by his alternate universe counterpart who thinks he should be in charge, but isn't. By Season 4, Team Flash is being run by Iris.
  • Captain Lorca until he also turns out to be a villain, and then Saru takes command in Star Trek: Discovery, the first Star Trek series in which the main character (Lt Michael Burnham) isn't in command.
  • Stargate SG-1 has the generals in command of the SGC (Hammond for most of the series, later O'Neill and then Landry). They spend most of their time with administrative tasks and trying to keep the higher-ups and politicians from sticking their noses in the program, while SG-1 and the other teams get all the offworld action. But they do take a more direct role from time to time, such as Hammond taking charge of the Prometheus during the battle over Antarctica.
  • Tomica Hero Rescue Force: Eiji Ishiguro is the Rescue Force's commander, and eventually joins them in the field as R5, but the main protagonist is still Hikaru Todoroki / R1.

    Multiple Media 
    • Toa Helryx, the first Toa and leader of the Hero Secret Service, being the series' tangible Big Good. She and her organization coordinated forces throughout the Matoran World to unite against the Brotherhood of Makuta. After the organization blew its own cover, she temporarily became a prisoner of the Big Bad, and at the story's end, her role as a leader has basically diminished.
    • While most Toa of Fire lead their teams and are the main characters of their storylines, Jaller, the leader of the Toa Inika/Mahri ends up being secondary in importance to Matoro, the true hero of the story and The Chosen One. During 2007 in particular, Hahli also gains more spotlight, putting even less focus on Jaller.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Robin Hood: Richard the Lionheart plays this role in most adaptations of the legend. Robin has no hope of ever being anything but a bandit as long as Prince John rules England, but when the true king returns to overthrow John's corrupt administration, he knights Robin and pardons his men.

    Video Games 
  • The Nintendo Wars game Advance Wars: Days of Ruin has Captain Brenner, who leads what's left of the military to try and rescue and rebuild as much as possible After the End, backed up by his second in command Lin. You play as Will, who's just some cadet they picked up and who wants to help as much as possible. After Brenner's Heroic Sacrifice Lin attempts to take over as leader, but her cold, emotionless, and analytical approach to leading quickly puts her at odds with the survivors so she appoints the kinder and more caring Will as commander to put them at ease, relegating herself to a supporting role with her logical intelligence and expertise.
  • The Griffon in American McGee's Alice. He gathers the allies Alice has met and has them storm the castle while Alice goes to face the Queen. Too bad you would soon have to take his place.
  • Betrayal at Krondor:
    • Prince Arutha, the hero of the original books, becomes this. He only appears in the cutscenes between chapters, when he gives orders to heroes, questions prisoners or moves his troops to repel invasion. While the heroes are searching for the real cause of the invasion.
    • Similarly, Duke Martin, another hero of the first novels, in chapter 5 effectively commands preparations for Northwarden defence (the baron is less than competent) and is the major quest-giver.
  • Dragon Age: Origins starts out with King Cailan Theirin and Duncan, continues with Arl Eamon, and, finally concludes with either Alistair or Queen Anora fulfilling this role, depending on the player's choices. Before the final battle, the player can also choose one of the remaining party members to stay behind and lead a brief gaiden encounter.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Morrowind, Vivec becomes one toward the end of the main quest. Once you've convinced him that you are the Nerevarine, he passes the Wraithguard on to you. He rescinds the order to kill/arrest the Nerevarine and passes on his knowledge of how to unbind the Heart of Lorkhan the source of Dagoth Ur's (and the Tribunal's) divinity. He also orders the Ordinators and Buoyant Armigers inside Ghostgate to aid the Nerevarine in any way they can.
    • Oblivion:
      • Near the end of the main quest, Captain Maritus, Burd, and Martin Septim all take up this role and hold off Deadra exiting the Oblivion gates while you run in to seal off the gates.
      • In general, it could be said that Martin is the hero, and the Player Character is in fact Supporting Leader (and/or even Hero of Another Story and/or Martin's Hypercompetent Sidekick), and this is indeed how in-universe historians come to record the events. Especially considering that Martin is ultimately the one who defeats Mehrunes Dagon in a Heroic Sacrifice. (There are exploits which can allow you to strike down Mehrunes Dagon instead, but the plot (if its not made Unwinnable by your actions) continues as if Martin made the sacrifice anyway.)
    • In Skyrim, completing the Civil War questline before completing the main quest turns the leader of whichever side you supported (General Tullius or Ulfric Stormcloak) into this. It is most evident when it comes to using Dragonsreach castle in Whiterun to capture a dragon alive. If the Civil War is still raging, you must get both sides to agree to a temporary truce at High Hrothgar in order to be allowed to use Dragonsreach. If you've won the war for either side, they'll agree to let you use it without question.
  • Eternal Sonata has Jazz, a playable character and the leader of a revolutionary group known as Andantino.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: On the Silver Snow route, Ferdinand serves as this, as while he is outclassed by Byleth and Seteth in the Resistance Army, he acts as the leader of the student characters and provides the Resistance Army with what's left of House Aegir's troops. He also tends to speak up more on this route.
  • God of War: The Oracle of Athens leads the city's defense against Ares' invasion, while Kratos goes in search of Pandora's Box in order to defeat Ares.
  • Halo:
    • In Halo 2, Master Chief becomes this to the Arbiter. While Master Chief is the main hero of the overall series, it is the Arbiter around whom the vast majority of 2's plot revolves, and ultimately he's the one to stop Tartarus and save the galaxy (temporarily, at least). Master Chief retakes the role of The Hero in Halo 3, with the Arbiter dropped down to Sidekick status.
    • Admiral Terrence Hood becomes the supreme commander of Earth's forces by the end of the Covenant War, with Commander Keyes, Sgt. Johnson, and the Master Chief all under his command.
    • Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum takes this role from Admiral Hood in the second half of Halo 3.
    • The Arbiter himself has taken this role in post-3 media as the leader of the Swords of Sanghelios, most notably in Halo 5: Guardians.
    • Thomas Lasky takes up this role in the 343 Industries-made games after being made captain of the UNSC Infinity.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Squall — or "Leon" — is the leader of the first group of allies Sora meets, but he and his friends generally act as the home guard while Sora and co. save the world.
    • Once he stops serving as the Mysterious Protector, King Mickey starts to take on this role for the Disney characters.
  • The player character in Majesty, despite being the protagonist, has a lot of similarities to this archetype, acting as the sovereign of the land and deciding what to build and what heroes need to be recruited, while the heroes actually go on the quests that accomplish the goal for the scenario.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Admiral Hackett plays this role in Mass Effect, leading the human fleet against Sovereign and the geth fleet while Shepard goes after Saren.
    • He does it again in Mass Effect 3, in which he's more or less the leader of the human race. What's more, any forces the other races commit to the war effort fall under his command, and he's in charge of the Final Battle to retake Earth and the Citadel from the Reapers.
      "Never before have so many come together from all quarters of the galaxy. But never before have we faced an enemy such as this. The Reapers will show us no mercy, we must give them no quarter. They will terrorize our populations. We must stand fast in the face of that terror. They will advance until our last city falls, but we will not fall. We will prevail. Each of us will be defined by our actions in the coming battle. Stand fast, stand strong. Stand together. Hackett out."
    • Assuming he survived the first game, Urdnot Wrex becomes this for the rest of the trilogy. As leader of the krogan, he's only too happy to assist you how he can, but his duties come first, and he isn't going to join the crew of the Normandy again. Subverted in the Citadel DLC of 3, which brings him back (temporarily) as a party member to combat the villain of that story arc.
  • Common across the various eras of Mega Man:
    • Classic: Mega Man is The Hero, but he's still Dr. Light's helper robot and rarely acts independently.
    • Early X games feature Dr. Cain in a similar role to Light as the leader of the Maverick Hunters. Later games replace him with Signas, a Reploid. X and Zero report to them between missions.
    • Zero: Ciel (and briefly, Elpizo) leads the Resistance and its research while Zero does all the fighting.
    • ZX: Prarie leads the Guardians like Ciel before her. Then in Advent, Legion's Sage Trinity lead the entire world. Vent/Aile and Grey/Ashe see all the combat but frequently consult with them.
  • Metal Gear:
    • One could make a case for Ocelot. He'd been scheming to take down the Patriots, and without him as a diversion for the Patriots' wrath, it's questionable whether Snake and co would have lasted as long as they did, much less saved the day. And, yes, this was all according to Ocelot's plan.
    • Snake himself is the Aragorn of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Raiden gets the lion's share of the gameplay, but it is clear that he is inferior to Snake, who is busy being awesome off-screen.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Mei Ling, as commander of the Missouri, is leading the only visible resistance (paltry as it may be) against the Patriots and Ocelot. Of course, during the final battle, she and her men aren't really providing a distraction as much as desperately trying to just survive until Snake can get to GW's server room. They still pull a little of the heat off of Snake, though.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the Galactic Federation commander, Admiral Dane, serves this role, showing up to send Samus off on a special mission as the rest of his forces fight the bulk of the Space Pirates. In fact, this happens twice, on two consecutive missions.
  • Persona 3: Mitsuru is the founder of SEES and has been its leader long before the protagonist arrives. However, due to her serving as Mission Control until Fuuka joins the group, the protagonist is chosen to lead the group in battle instead, but Mitsuru is still considered the official leader.
  • Sands of Destruction: Morte is ostensibly the leader of the party, who drags everyone else along on her journey to destroy the world. However, the actual Player Character is Kyrie, whom Morte needs for his special powers. Morte herself only leads the party during Kyrie's Missing Main Character stint.
  • Takeda Shingen from Sengoku Basara, a Hot-Blooded Cool Old Guy and mentor to one of the protagonists. Though not a main character, he is easily one of the most powerful and influential, and holds a lot of sway over Yukimura.
  • Chun-Li of the Street Fighter series tends to be one of the few characters trying to stop the Big Bad of each game. While Guile could also qualify for this role, he only really started opposing Bison story-wise in Street Fighter Alpha 3 due to being Out of Focus. Chun-Li however has been trying to stop Shadaloo since Street Fighter Alpha 1 and continues on to fight the Illuminati in Street Fighter III when Guile is retired.
  • Tales of Vesperia:
    • Flynn is always one step behind the heroes, providing them with aid as Captain of the knights. The PS3 remake and Definitive Edition removes most of this however as now he generally meets up with the heroes in time and helps out for most of the end of chapter events, before joining the party for good towards the end.
    • Karol is the official leader of the party's guild Brave Vesperia, but Yuri and Estelle are the main focus characters in the story.
  • Warcraft:
    • In Warcraft II, Lothar serves as one of these for most of the Alliance campaign. He is killed by orcs in the second-to-last mission, requiring the player character to take command.
    • In World of Warcraft, almost any friendly NPC that appears after the very beginning of a dungeon is this. In the Icecrown 5-man instances, for example, Jaina or Sylvanas is leading a bunch of regular soldiers on a covert mission into the backdoor to the citadel, and your party is just a group of elite, irregular forces helping.
    • The Halls of Stone makes the player characters The Aragorn when your only role in-story in the second half of the place is to protect Brann Bronzebeard long enough for him to hack into the Titans' computer and deactivate the defense systems you're fighting.
    • Bolvar Fordragon fits this trope, as he leads the Alliance forces at the battle of the Wrath Gate.

  • Zeetha sometimes is this to Agatha in Girl Genius.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Tedd's father, Mr. Verres, was this until he was Kicked Upstairs to "Head of Paranormal Diplomacy". He still has some authority and a huge amount of knowledge and experience, so he's still a help to the heroes.
  • In Weak Hero, Ben is the leader of the delinquent group that Gray is eventually integrated in, even though Gray himself is the protagonist of the story. Ben is also one of the strongest characters, and has personal beef against the Union that serve as the main antagonists.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, the square-jawed mercenary captain Kaff Tagon may be the one leading the toughs, the one signing the paychecks & the one who looks the part, but we're supposed to be rooting for the eponymous pile of talking poop.
  • Dana's role in I Don't Want This Kind of Hero. While Naga's the protagonist, Dana's usually the one dealing with the more behind-the-scenes matters, and if Baek Morae shows up, there's a good chance Dana will be the one fighting him.

    Web Original 
  • Although Specs is the Big Good and The Leader of the Dino Attack Team, he is only a supporting character in Dino Attack RPG, which instead puts the spotlight on his soldiers.
  • Both Chief of Security Franklin Delarose (a decorated soldier) and Headmistress Elizabeth Carson (better known as superheroine Lady Astarte) got a chance to be a Supporting Leader in the Halloween stories set at Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, when an unstoppable super villain led a small army against the school.
  • lonelygirl15 has (at least in its first season) Tachyon filling this role - as she runs around the world fighting the Order, she occasionally stops to lend a little aid to our band of refugee heroes. Their first major victory happens almost entirely because she was in town at the time.
  • Red vs. Blue has Vanessa Kimball for seasons 12 and 13, and Agent Carolina took up this role starting with the Chorus Arc.

    Western Animation 
  • Ultra Magnus crosses this with Big Good in Transformers: Animated, leading the Autobots' military forces in back-and-forth skirmishes at the fringes of the galaxy while the heroes thwart the Decepticon plans on Earth.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Iroh leads an army to reconquer Ba Sing Se in the name of the Earth King while the Gaang is fighting Ozai.
    • The Grand Finale pretty much gives this role to all the supporting characters; Zuko and Katara go to the Fire Nation to ensure that he is ready to ascend to the throne (and deal with Azula), Iroh leads the army which reclaims Ba Sing Se, and Sokka, Toph Beifong and Suki go to sabotage the airship fleet, all ensuring that everything that comes after Aang beating Ozai will be positive.
    • Sokka establishes himself as the Gaang's leader, the main strategist, battle commander and 'guy with a plan'.
  • In Get Ed, the team leader is actually Burn, who has just a few follicles too many to count as a Bald of Authority (points for the military cut, though). Ed himself is more of a Sixth Ranger who just joined before the start of the series (the couriers' uniforms all have numbers; five is absent from the team, being a space left for a character named "Fader" who was to have his own plotline in the second season that never materialized).
  • In Young Justice (2010), the Justice League may have all of Earth's greatest heroes, regularly stave off massive threats, and give the Team their orders, but they're all strictly secondary cast.
  • In Kid Cosmic , although Kid is The Hero and the main character, ironically it's Jo's handling of responsibilities, ability to think quick and complementing each teammate's abilities as well as headstrong determination in seeing every single obstacle with them what pegs her in the others' eyes as team leader, despite never proclaiming or wanting the title. Kid comes to realize this as well when he makes Jo the team leader in the season 1 finale.

Alternative Title(s): Secondary Hero, The Aragorn