By some accounts, Cheney exploited Dubya’s vacuity to manipulate him and that administration. But you can also have a VP like Biden or Gore, who took a more active role than was traditional for most of the office’s history, but took their lead from, as you say, the main server, instead of the other way around. My impression is that Pence has a similar relationship to Trump despite being more cunning than him, probably owing to Trump being more volatile than Dubya, but there’s no question that the standby server is the more competent one this time around.
Mind you I’m only commenting on the working relationship, not the character of the people. Gore and Biden were men of decent and good character who worked for competent leaders. Pence is, as we know, a Christofacist who works for a narcissistic clown.