Sitting in First Chair, but Playing Second Fiddle

Before I start out using a musical metaphor, I better define a few things. A ‘first chair’ is the leader of an orchestra. When the conductor is not there, they take over. It is usually the best violinist or ‘fiddler’ of the group. The person next to them is usually ‘second fiddle’, or, to use another metaphor, an understudy. If the first chair gets sick, they take over.

But what happens in business, and in life, when the conductor is almost always absent, the first chair decides to take an extended leave, and YOU are the second fiddle?

You’d think playing second fiddle would be easy. It isn’t. Being first chair is hard, everyone agrees to that. They have all of the responsibility of the conductor, plus they have to play an instrument. Being the conductor is a breeze in comparison. But when the first chair hits the road- your supervisor goes out to lunch mentally, your spouse says adios to responsibility- you, as second fiddle, have to take over.

Second fiddlers are not respected. They have to fight for every ounce of power they have. They not only have to take over the responsibilities of first chair, but they have to prove that they are capable and that the position, in fact, does need to be taken over. How do you prove the absence of something? Especially if the person is still, technically, there? Let me tell you, it is hard.

But somehow, you succeed. You are sitting in first chair. You have taken over the ‘seat of power’ and now it’s all up to you. There’s only one problem. You’re not ready.

It’s one thing to get the power; it’s a whole other thing to be able to wield it correctly. In your family: can you be both mother and father to your kids? Disciplinarian and comforter? Judge and intercessor? In your business: can you be co-worker and boss? Leader and listener?

You’re in the hot seat now. You are sitting in first chair, but you’re still only a second fiddle. You know that at any moment, the real first chair could speak up and you’d be knocked back to your former position. But, at this time, someone has to take control. How do you survive?

First, remember who you are. You are second fiddle. Either by choice or by design, you are who you are. And that’s fine. Not everyone is cut out to be first chair, not everyone wants to be first chair. Your objective is to do the best you can with what you have.

Second, relax. This isn’t your job and everyone knows it. If you take yourself too seriously, you’re doomed to failure. Listen to others, keep a cool head, and don’t make the same mistakes your predecessor did.
Last, be prepared to step down. Eventually, someone will come in to take over. Don’t fight it. Do your best to help out the new first chair, or support the returning one, without censure or blame. It won’t help anyone to add conflict to an already difficult situation.

Many second fiddles are taking on first chair responsibilities nowadays. Just remember who you are and why you’re doing it. You can only do the best you can. Everything else is in the Lord’s hands.

Author Bio:
This is a guest post from Laura Backes, she enjoys writing about all kinds of subjects and also topics related to internet service providers in my area. You can reach her at: laurabackes8 @

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  1. Great guest post 😉

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