First Chair, Second Chair

Leadership from a marching band perspective.

Yours truly in marching band circa 1995. (I played the trumpet)

Being first chair means you’re not only the best at your instrument, but you’re also the leader of your group.

Being the leader means others might not agree with your decisions. You keep a healthy separation so you don’t become biased toward any one individual you are leading. Sometimes that’s a lonely place.

First chair works long hours to complete all that is required between playing, practicing, and leading others.

It carries clout because everyone knows your name. You have a special mark in the program or website depending on the era.

It means added responsibility because you’re playing the lead part, and you’re also responsible for leading the rest of the group.

You stand out the most and naturally receive the most credit when things go well.

When things don’t go so well, you’ll surely receive more of the blame.

Second chair means that you’re still very good at your instrument.

You don’t have the same leadership responsibility as first chair. Sure you might be called upon when they are sick once or twice a year.

Instead, you have to follow first chair’s lead, even if you don’t fully agree. That does make it easier to fraternize with the other members of your section.

You have no additional responsibility and no long hours which allows you to focus on getting better at your instrument.

No special mention of you in the program or website.

You may not receive as much of the credit when things go well but you certainly won’t receive as much of the blame when they don’t.

Were you born to be a first chair or second chair? Or have you found that there’s value in doing a little bit of both in your life? Sometimes one for a season and the other for a season. Sometimes a bit of each simultaneously.

Note: For those of you who weren’t in band, first chair or section leader is the top person for each instrumental section. It carries the responsibility of playing the most difficult part and also leading the rest of the section. Second chair plays the same part as first chair without the additional leadership responsibility.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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