Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What Makes A Superstar?

When I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a bad seed who had been a superstar, I received a communication from one of my readers asking me to define what makes a superstar employee.  I thought this was worth writing about.

Superstars are people who have a number of things that have happened in their career, often simultaneously, but occasionally, sequentially.  Mostly, they get promoted quickly (and don’t necessarily have to change jobs in order to get promoted) and regularly.  They get rotated on to different businesses or have a multitude of experiences which gives them a broad view of the business.  They exude competence and passion; and, most of all, they exude their success, but not in an egocentric or arrogant way.  

Most of these people have worked both at the right companies and on the right accounts.  In advertising, the “right” agencies are either the big shops or the highly esteemed smaller agencies – these days, Wieden & Kennedy, Droga5, 360i, R/GA (to name a few).  All these companies have one thing in common – they are highly regarded by the rest of the business.

The “right” accounts are those where the work is highly visible and well regarded.  The creative work is probably well known and recognized.  P&G, Samsung, IBM, Lexus, even some of the major retailers, fall into this category.  People who have worked on these kinds of businesses are generally well trained and highly in demand.  This is not only true of advertising, but all business in general.
Superstars tend to have a very broad view of the business and, even in the early stages of their careers, have adopted their own point of view about the business. They also are highly directed and motivated. When they interview, the exude passion and love for what they do – doesn’t matter what their discipline – writing, art direction, producers, strategists, account people – there is something almost intangible that they communicate that makes people want them on their team.  In advertising, they have an innate understanding that creative is ultimately what counts but have learned to value and befriend their clients, again, their disciplines don’t matter.. Most work hard and long and love it. 

They are problem solvers and unselfishly do whatever is required of them. Their employers are constantly challenging them with difficult assignments and projects because they are confident that the superstar can confront the issue and resolve the problem.  Most often, people want to work with and for them.

Sometimes, superstars become so because they are in the right place at the right time.  In advertising, marketing and other service business star executives end up working on accounts that grow dramatically. They have good relationships with their clients and as the clients get promoted, these they get promoted because the client likes them.  More than one agency president has come up this way.

As superstars progress through their career, they are a positive influence on the people who work for and with them.  Knowing that there is strength in numbers, they are able to unify the people who work for them.  Employees generally love reporting to these people because they become mentors.  
 Even in junior positions, they are unafraid to voice opinions and can bring people around to their point of view. In short, they are all leaders.


  1. Having working in some MNC in western countries, I suppose, marketing always take the glamorous stage...But sales deliver the numbers. In the east, no sales no breads, regardless how good the marketing. Relationship still rule here.

    1. Dragon Inn, sorry but I don't know what an MNC is.


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