In all sports, a key difference between true superstars and the rest is when superstars exert leadership qualities on their teams. Superstar athletes like Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, and Magic Johnson seem to possess the leadership qualities that inspire their teammates to play beyond their ordinary capabilities.
Business leaders that can enable their superstars to lead can win big, too. Here are some ideas to consider when managing your superstars:
Just like in sports, superstar talent can be selfish and difficult to coach. While gifted, these kinds of superstars tend to be "me" focused, not team focused. "Me-focused" superstars are not your leaders. For them, leading their organization to victory takes a back seat to generating controversy and shifting the spotlight onto themselves. So, when managing this type of talent, let them do their thing. Keep them out of the general population because they can demotivate less talented players and hurt team performance.
We have all seen the scenario where a high-performing coworker gets promoted to a leadership position, and then lacks the skills to manage a team. This is an example of not every superstar can lead. It should be avoided at all costs within the organization that is striving for excellence.
One quality of superstar talent is drive. Superstars want to excel. Most have little patience for those who don’t share the interest. So, let the driven drive the team. Their thirst for victory and excellence will encourage others to strive to achieve.
Self-discipline is another trait of the superstar. Superstar talent knows what it takes to stay on top of their game. Not only will their example move others to do what must be done to become similarly accomplished, but, when encouraged to lead, these superstars can deliver the tough messages to others who are not putting in the necessary effort to win.
The business world works in a similar, self-governing way. Business superstars have little tolerance for the shoddy work of others. Colleagues that don’t live up to expectations will quickly learn from the superstars on their teams that their mediocrity is not appreciated, and they will be encouraged to shape up or ship out.
Superstars are tenacious—they just don’t quit. Team-focused superstars lead by example. Their grit rubs offs on the rest of the team. Accepting defeat is not in the vocabulary. Teammates quickly learn that you don’t quit until the whistle blows, buzzer sounds, or the last out is in the books.
The best of the best bounce back from adversity. The resilience of a superstar leader sets a certain tone on the teams that they play on—when knocked down, you come up swinging. This type of mental and physical toughness, when exhibited by a superstar, impels their teammates to find a similar strength within themselves.
Nothing kills a team’s will to win more than small thinkers. The conservative tendencies of a coach or the small-mindedness of some key players can quickly bring a team down, unless it is offset by a big-thinking superstar leader that dares to share their dreams of championships and can convince their teammates to do whatever it takes to make those dreams come true.
Most of us have been affected by small-minded thinking in the workplace. I’ve seen a marketing manager keep their firm from growing simply because he didn’t think the firm had what it takes to move up market. When people like that gain the ear of the president or CEO, small-mindedness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must encourage and support the big thinkers—they’re the ones that will lead an organization to bigger and better prospects.
Only time will tell if Johnny Manziel, otherwise known as Johnny Football, can control his oversize ego enough to become the leader the Cleveland Browns want him to be. Who knows if the recently drafted Jimmy Garoppolo will be able to one day fill Tom Brady’s shoes, when the New England Patriots superstar decides to hang up his cleats for good?
Regardless, teams that select superstars that can and want to lead will win. This point is as true in the business world as it is in professional sports. Thus, senior business leaders have no choice but to select their talent wisely and allow their superstars to lead their organizations to greatness.
—James M. Kerr is a management consultant and organizational behaviorist specializing in strategic planning, corporate transformation, and project and program development. Consulting with many Fortune 100 firms, he has worked with diverse organizations including Home Depot, JPMorgan Chase, Mitsui Sumitomo, IBM, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For more information please visit Executive Checklist or send a note directly to James at jkerr@Executive-Checklist.com.