Leading On Careers: Do You Really Need A Rock Star?

As someone who spends a ton of time in the recruiting space I can tell you that one of the top five problems companies say they face is attracting top talent. I can also tell you that every new requisition I get starts with the phrase, “we need a rock star.”rockstarhr

Top talent is in demand and apparently hard to find (it isn’t really, but I’ll leave that for another post).

But here’s the thing. Not everyone can be a rock star.

And here’s the bigger thing. Not everyone should be.

We use the term “rock star” to talk about a high performer, but I’m not convinced we always know what we are asking for. We think every employee needs to be this front and center, over-achiever who performs at levels high above everyone else. If we think about an actual rock band, we know we have the rock stars and rest of the crew. In successful bands, all are high performers. The difference comes in what they contribute and what they demand in return.

When desiring rock stars, companies should really think about do they need a true rock star or someone willing to be a part of the crew. Both are high performers, but what they bring is very different.

Let me explain.

Rock stars are front and center. They are the face of the team. They receive and often relish in constant attention. They are often aggressive in their ambition to climb the ladder as quickly as possible. They perform at very high levels and are usually driving innovation. They bring charisma and power that high performing teams need. They will question status quo and continue to push until practices or programs are the best they can be.

Rock stars often challenge others to be better. They foster competition, just by the act of being who they are, with other rock stars. While this could turn ugly, for the most part it is harmless and serves to push the team to even higher levels of performance.

In short, rock starts provide explosive opportunities of growth and pushing the team to new levels.

Due to their personalities, rock stars demand a lot from their employers. They need constant recognition and will become bored with things very easy. They are always looking out for what is next or better and if their employer can not give them that they will be on their way to the place that can. In addition, if their current workplace does not allow them the opportunity to use their abilities to the fullest extent they believe they are capable, they will be on their way.

Rock stars bring a ton of value in the way of innovation and growth, but they are very high maintenance.

In contrast, the crew, or the “Steady Eddies” bring different skills.

Steady Eddies are faithful in their work. They perform to very acceptable levels and more than likely excel in a few areas. They get along well with co-workers and are considered a valuable member of the team. They are comfortable where they are and while moving up the ladder may be a desire it isn’t a driving force. They are content doing good work day in and day out.

The reason Steady Eddies are so important is two-fold. First, Steady Eddies provide consistency. They consistently perform to levels that sustain growth. They are consistently loyal even in down times. They are steady through change and can always be counted on.

Second, Steady Eddies provide balance. Their personality is typically more even and content. They are less likely to create a disruption or rock the boat. They balance out some of the stronger personalities that rock stars are likely to have.

Steady Eddies are perfectly content being the pit crew. They realize they are not the individual on the team who is front and center and they are ok with that. They are fine being behind the scenes and are not looking for constant praise or attention.

Steady Eddies tend to be less maintenance than rock stars, but they also tend to be less creative. They may get stuck in the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” syndrome that can halt growth. They may not be looking for new ways of doing things and may wait for the ideas to come from elsewhere.

Effective teams will have both rock stars and members of the crew. Finding the perfect balance of both takes time, but once achieved can catapult the team to new levels. Leaders who are able to cultivate both personalities and get them working together, both content to let the other be how they are, will see astonishing results in terms of efficiency and productivity.

So the next time you decide you need a high performer – and we always want high performers, think about whether you really want a rock star or a member of the crew. Both can perform at high levels, but what they really provide and desire is very different. Your existing team with their current skill sets will help you determine who will fit in best.

Not everyone can or should be a rock star.

Sabrina Baker
Sabrina Baker, PHR is the founder and CEO of Acacia HR Solutions, a human resource outsourcing, consulting and recruiting firm located outside of Chicago, IL. Sabrina was a human resource leader for eleven years before starting her own business in 2011. She serves on the Illinois Society of Human Resources Council board and holds the position of Annual Conference Chair. She is also a member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) press team and is a regular contributor to their We Know Next blog. After experiencing her own layoff in 2010, Sabrina became very passionate about helping job seekers find work. Through her business and volunteer efforts she makes helping people find jobs a priority. Sabrina was named one of the Top 100 HR Influencers to follow on Twitter via the Huffington Post in 2013 and one of the Faces of Recruiting and Staffing by HR Marketer in 2014.
Sabrina Baker
Sabrina Baker



1 Comment

  • July 31, 2014


    AlliPolin Thanks, Alli for sharing SabrinaLBaker post for #bealeader

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