Every now and then we find out that someone whose name we never heard was the secret ingredient to a spectacular success story. George Martin, one such person who arguably turned The Beatles into the band we know, died recently at age 90.
It is fascinating how many brilliant people prefer to stay back-stage like Martin did. In rock music just like at workplaces, most talented people lack the far-flung extroversion that makes one yearn for limelight and fans. Most of us would rather be agents than stars.
Surely you have a colleague or acquaintance we could call a local starlet. Craving for attention more than anything else, such highly extroverted people jump on opportunities to make speeches or shine out at meetings. They measure the value of their ideas by the number of Facebook ‘likes’ and attendants approaching them after a presentation.
Depending on your temperament, you might want to be them, you might want to be with them, or you might think they are buffoons. True, the star type does not necessarily strive to be in charge, comfortable presenting other’s ideas as long as he can take the applause. People who yearn for their own fifteen minutes often resent such performers, feeling somewhat left behind in an age where building your ‘personal brand’ is said to be a secret of success.
Many famous success stories are in fact half-stories where a star outshines someone just as brilliant. Bill Gates has Paul Allen, Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak and The Beatles had Martin, but one of these names sounds obscure for the large majority. That is alright with the Wozniaks of the world as long as the cooperation works and the new album, software or gadget is a hit.
Not all aspiring workplace stars realise how much they depend on their teams. The talent for attracting attention and admiration is frequently coupled with changeable short-term thinking and the delusion that viewership itself is the goal. Smart ones appreciate that backstage work creates most of the value, and openly share credit.
Behind successful cooperation of front-men and their teams are many hours, days and weeks of friction and occasional resentment. Knowing that neither side could effectively do the reverse role makes a great outcome much more likely.
Take sides: Ask yourself whether you really crave for attention, even if it comes with the inevitable exposure, risk and dependence on specialists whose work you don’t really understand. If you still want to jump on stage, go for it. If you decide it is not worth it, remember that most people, including many geniuses in their field, would choose the same.
Play the part: If back-stage is where you dream to be, you need a star. Too many brilliant people resent the world because they lack the skills to promote their smart ideas. Extroverts, on the other hand are great at grabbing attention but often lack the content to deliver. Do both of you a favour, let your star ‘twist and shout’, and take your share of the resulting success.