To play second chair

Are You Willing to Play Second Chair?

“There are plenty of people who want to be first violinists, but to find someone willing to play second chair, in any section of the orchestra, is a problem. But without a second, there is no harmony.” — Leonard Bernstein

Leaders, quite naturally, feel most comfortable leading. It’s where we’re gifted. There’s a certain fulfillment that comes with taking charge of a project, developing a strategy, putting a team together, and seeing it through to completion.

A problem that many organizations face, however, comes when you have to deal with those special few leaders who can’t — or won’t — do anything but lead. As in: If I’m not in charge, I’m not there.

The best leaders understand and embrace the idea that sometimes your contribution to a project is not to call the plays, but to help the play-caller execute the plan.

Or, as Mr. Bernstein might say, there are times when — no matter how gifted a leader you may be — it’s your job to play second chair and add a little harmony to the outcome.

When you find yourself involved in work in which first chair is already in place, don’t quit the band, don’t stage a coup, don’t pack your bags and go home.

Instead, seize the opportunity to be the kind of second chair you wish you had in every project you lead.

You’ll be amazed at what you can learn about playing melody when you choose to play harmony once in a while.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. (Colossians 3:23)