It has been said that there are 3 kinds of stars in the workplace:




The rising stars are usually those that are seen. They the talents HR would refer to as “Hi-PO” or High Potential; business owners or company executives see so much potential in them and are willing to consider them for job promotions.

The middle stars are usually those that are not seen. They do not call attention to themselves because they deliver expected “minimum requirement” results. No executives or business owners would consider them because of the marketing concept: “Out of sight, out of mind.” They are obscure because they are average. A great majority of people in the workplace belongs to this group. For whatever reason there is, they are well… just there. These could be the type of people who would ask a philosophically sounding question like: “Why is Monday so far from Friday, and Friday so close to Monday?”

The falling stars catch the attention of the top executives. They do not deliver. They fail expectations. Perhaps they once were middle stars but now they are falling and things do not look good for them. They fail to hit targets, they do not comply, and they are now candidates for replacements.

I got the story about this person who says: “When my boss told me this is the fifth time I am late, I smiled and thought to myself, ‘That’s great. It’s Friday!’ Now this person is a serious candidate under the category ‘falling stars.’”

The above commentary is not intended to be a sweeping generalization but while the 3 kinds of stars seem to be familiar with many, something else is going on.

Taking the cue from Kim Scott’s book “Radical Candor” Kim Scott says there are 2 kinds of stars in the workplace today. These are the Rock Stars and the Superstars.

In her book, the author describes the superstars as the aggressive ones. They are super-serious with their career growth. They love the challenges. They thrive on it. They’re the corporate athletes of Extreme Sports Variety. They feed on adventure. They love to learn new things. But they get bored easily. You make them work on the same thing for a year or two they leave because they say: "I am no longer growing in my job." "I am so bored to death, I feel my life is wasted doing the same stupid things..."

And then there are the Rockstars; not flashy as the superstars but are productive, steady and stable. These people are the foundation of a company's progress. Sometimes it is not that they are not interested with their career path but because they prefer to stay in their current pace. Perhaps they have children to take care of. Perhaps they want more time with the family or are very involved with church or community services and activities.

Now here is where the dynamics of leadership come into play.

When you push these people to become aggressive, they get annoyed. They may not like to be promoted because accepting the promotions may mean that they have to give up many other things in life in order to absorb bigger responsibilities. The hard truth behind this is that they quit their jobs because they are pushed to more challenging and bigger roles. You therefore lose a Rock star and the years that have taken the person to be as steady and as reliable disappears when the person leaves. 

Every company needs to have the Rock Stars and the Superstars.

And the challenge of leaders is to have the leadership skills to be able to lead them both. Now here is the rub.

Over time people change, and the leader needs to change with them. The problem in most cases is that leaders lock into their perceptions of their people. It is easy to say that this person in my team is a Rock Star and the other one is a Superstar and then they become permanent labels disregarding the fact that people change. And then they get into all sorts of troubles.

What do people value in their work? We talk about their pay, perks, workplace environment, company culture etc. But the truth is that highest on the list is still the importance of the relationship with their manager. And even when the business landscape has changed and everything else along with it, the relationship people have with their direct manager still takes precedence over everything else.

Managers should be trained on leadership skills. And when they lead correctly they not only help retain good talents, they actually get to shape and mold and develop both the rock stars and the super stars in the organization.  Yes, our people are our greatest asset but they need leaders who can bring out those potential and put them to good use.

Francis Kong with his highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership learning event will be back with its next run on June. Get exclusive updates and more details by accessing the STORM Learning marketplace. Email to find out how.