Yes, there are incompetent secretaries, but those who are not have far more power than their pay grades would indicate, because they are the gatekeepers, and they have influence.
I disagree. An administrative assistant's job is not to decide for themselves what or who is important. Their job is to carry out what the company leaders, managers and any higher ranking coworkers have decided is important so they can do their jobs effectively.
The admin assistant has no authority to decide which customers or employees are worthy of her time. That's up to her manager. There are certainly managers who are weak and ineffectual who let admins have more influence than they ought to, but that's not the same. Admins don't get to decide they're not going to file/submit reports, refill supplies, and schedule appointments or approved leave requests in appropriate time slots. My office just got rid of our little "gatekeeper" that thought she could. She thought she was greatly underpaid -- we all thought she was grossly overpaid.
Hmm, actually now you mention it I do have a similar problem with my PA. There's a few things she's done recently that have waaaay overstepped her authority. For example, asking all of the admin staff to give her their computer passwords (in direct contradiction to company policy), presumably because she thinks she might need them if they're away. Also personally handling a client referral that should have been given to our Managing Director to follow-up on - a huge client referral - which is not part of her role.
I'm hoping it's not PD in the making as I really like her. The things she does for me are amazing, whether it's big projects (auditing and fixing data, reporting) or little things (buying formula or dummies and dropping them off at my son's daycare!) but when it comes to the rest of the staff she seems to think her authority and ability is far greater than it really is. Hopefully no more major incidents or I'll have to start performance management even though she's good at her role, but because of the things she is attempting to do that aren't part of her role!