April 17th, 2014

5 Frustrations of 2nd Chair Leadership (Part Two)

photo 2This post concludes a series on frustrations of 2nd chair leadership. To view the first part of the series, please visit http://auxa.no/1gGpMma.

Frustration #3: Stubbornness

You can’t fight culture from the 2nd chair – you must adapt to the passions of the 1st chair. It really is a waste of time to talk about how to get your leader to do things differently. That really isn’t your job. Your success will be found in discovering the valued parameters of the leader and learning to thrive within instead of without. I beat my head against the wall too many times. The older I get the more I realize how many different ways people go through life quite successfully. Adapting without losing yourself is a learned art.

Frustration #4: Relationship

The 1st chair leader needs you and may not know how to tell you. Many senior leaders are pretty isolated, lonely, and unaware. They can run on empty, live with blinders, and be very reactionary. Learn to be a calming, encouraging, and a supportive influence. Not everything that is said or felt on the surface is true. You need to take a long, patient look. 1st chair leaders need true fans. They have plenty of the fair weathered type or those who are looking to get something in return. Learn to be a genuine friend and this will be the platform for some great conversations.

Frustration #5: Success

Redefine your personal success in the 2nd chair. When you sit in the 2nd chair you are expected to help people succeed all around you, both above and below in the organization. Your success should not be defined by how long you work or how many fires you put out, but how you help others. This means you have to measure your success much differently. Helping your 1st chair achieve the vision is very different than helping the office manager thrive. It is easy to become either the hero running into the flames, or the garbage dump who deals with all of the junk. You too can become an isolationist alongside of the 1st chair leader.

Here are some practical takeaways to help you address these common frustrations:

  • Practice the skill of checking in informally with your 1st chair to get perspective. Learn to think like a shepherd as well as a farmer.
  • Take the time to meet with a coach, manager, or musical director that understands the art of leading different people to become one team.
  • Take time to understand the depth of what makes you unique. Create your workweek to allow these characteristics to flourish inside your culture.
  • Pray daily for your 1st chair leader.
  • Personally manage a limited number of people who are or can quickly become leaders of others.

While our nature is to be self-focused as humans, the 2nd chair requires quiet strength that gets really jazzed by the success of the organization as a whole over a long period of time. In the end, my frustrations were more about me than others. But no one enjoys talking about that.

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