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Leader’s dilemmas: How to turn Rock Stars into Super Stars…or let them go

Leader’s dilemmas: How to turn Rock Stars into Super Stars…or let them go

by Ashley Prisant Lesko, Business Executive

Leader’s dilemmas: How to turn Rock Stars into Super Stars – or “promote” them to customer

Summary: It takes a STRONG leader to fix a Rock Star on their team, however those leaders that do find their teams are stronger – and their employees respect the level of accountability the leader has proven to hold every person on the team.

It’s now 2019, the last year in this decade. We’ve seen some tumultuous times, and leaders of all kinds have been challenged in many ways.

What is a leader? A leader is simply one that aims to influence another person’s behavior or actions. You don’t have to have a title to be a leader. Anyone that chooses can become one

I have worked in several companies, and all of them had their share of Rock Stars and Super Stars. As a leader, you want to get away from the Rock Stars as quickly as possible and hope that you can have several Super Stars in your midst.

Super Stars are the ultimate team players. They lead from the sidelines, from the center and anywhere they are needed. Their primary goal is to do what’s best for the company, but they won’t lose what personally motivates them (such as outside of work) to do it. If taken care of, Super Stars are the most loyal employees; they know their job as well the job of several others. They have significant knowledge on their organization, their work to the point that makes their organization more successful by doing their job or feel the pain if they do not. However, even though most Super Stars know how important they are to their organization – they never use it against the company.

Rock Stars, on the other hand, can be team leaders, but many times chose the easier (and more self-serving) path of taking care of #1 – themselves. Like Super Stars, they have significant knowledge on their organization. They know their knowledge is vital – and use it to their advantage as much as possible. This could be in the form of attitude, work load (choosing to work less), or demands (pay raise, position, perks) beyond normal expectations.

The challenge for companies with Rock Stars is that typically, Rock Stars are made, not born. The company has allowed these individuals to grown in the organization as a single point of failure – someone who is more important to the organization – than the organization is to the Rock Star. The organization needs the individual – more than the individual needs the organization. This could even appear to the point of blackmail (“if you don’t give into my demands (as a Rock Star), then I will leave the company, and you will lose XYZ information”) if not kept in check.

How do you prevent growing Rock Stars?

1- Take a look at your team for Single Points of Failure. Is there anyone on your team that is the only person that has knowledge of an area?

2- If so, build a plan for a backup, develop a playbook, create a training plan, set up a bench of individuals that can grow in the job

3- If you find that the Rock Star recognizes their position may be threatened (“knowledge is power! If I have all the knowledge, then I have power”), explain your plan going forward to have backups – to help them and everyone else. Encourage them to become Super Stars – becoming team players in the process. If the Rock Star continues to challenge you – you may be forced to hold them accountable – either they train others, or they have to leave your organization

Some may challenge the advice in #3 – and rightly so. If you get rid of the Rock Star, don’t you lose the knowledge? Digging a bit deeper, you’ll find that most Rock Stars are seen by their peers as a poison pill that gets away with things that others don’t – and unjustly so. By keeping a Rock Star, and allowing him/her to continue – you put your organization at risk with their singular knowledge and your team as a breakdown in teamwork can occur.

I find many leaders struggle the most with the last paragraph – and I have found myself in that category. It does take a strong leader to upgrade a Rock Star into a Super Star on their team, but it can be done.

Leaders that go beyond and hold their Rock Stars (and teams) accountable find their teams are stronger.

It’s 2019. This is the year YOU can make it happen.

Originally published on LinkedIn

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