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Hey Diddle Diddle, the joys of being the 'second fiddle'

Updated: Jun 14

“I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm”- Leonard Bernstein

This writeup is for everyone who, like me , is used to being the lead actress , owning centre stage , being the ring master or the conductor . I am all of these in all my work for it is “I” who decides who I work with , what work I deliver , how I approach the problem and what solutions I offer . There is co-creation, discussion , inclusion and equity but I retain the largest voice and subtle dictatorship.

In a recent project , I have chosen to be a second fiddle – allowing my peer to have a larger share of voice in design /method. Leonard Bernstein, director of the Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked what was the hardest instrument in the orchestra to play. He said (probably with a smile), “Second fiddle!”. The term alludes to the part of the second violin in an orchestra. Although it is as important as the first violin, it is the idea of subordinacy that was transferred in the figurative term, so used since about 1800.

What started as the most difficult thing to do ,has become a joyful act of second fiddling . While I lurk in the shadows, I have discovered more joy than FOMO. These are my top 3 joys 

1. THE POWER OF OBSERVATION– When I am not leading or speaking , I am observing , picking on finer emotions , words and cues that are subtle and implicit . I have rediscovered the power of my sense and my training as a psychologist through the mere act of not being in a lead role . I am now often in meeting observing people and deep listening to a discussion – enjoying its lasting aroma.

2.THE POWER OF SLOWER DESIGN to DISCOVERY (D TO D) cycle– The time from discovery-design is always shorter while working alone but it get longer when you work with an equally invested peer. There is disagreement in choices of words, in information that is considered more important or less, in the perceptions we walk out with , in assigning a winner in the data -intuition battle . These delay the D TO D cycle but promise a deeper exploration of ideas and a more well considered output to the client.

3. THE POWER OF RELYING ON “THE OTHER “– The biggest for me has been to trust the information bought to me from meetings I did not attend myself . In my normal mode of work, I would control how all meetings are done- pushing for some consistency in the insights that are sought . In this one, I free flow , confident that our shared principles will get us to focus on insights that matter the most . There is also joy in trusting the method of “the other” and giving up on the desire to stick on with a method you have used successfully.

We all must “second fiddle” once in a while to discover how much “leading” has taken away from us . How many of you have second fiddled? 


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