Sunday, August 11, 2019

Are You a Future Superstar? Take the Test...

-- Intended for New Graduates --

Save the obvious: You aced the SAT and GMAT, graduated from Ivy, completed a top MBA program and joined a Dow component. Despite these astounding achievements, you are not a superstar -- yet. Just being brilliant does not make you a superstar. Let's put it this way: It is necessary, but not sufficient. In fact, only a very small percent of brilliant minds goes on to be recognized as true superstars. In order to be a superstar, you must uniquely and spontaneously rise above the smart peers, with a higher persona and more humane qualities. So, what are those additional qualities?

1. They Protect and Promote Staff and Peers -- Superstars are some of the most selfless leaders, always putting the interests of staff members and peers ahead of their own. Protecting and promoting others is not only their second nature, but they also go the extra mile in doing so. Atop, they achieve all this quietly and consistently, without letting anyone know that they are being so selfless in taking care of their immediate environment. As a kid I was confused about something so I sought my mom's advice. Her spontaneous reaction was, "Son, whatever you do, always think of others first. If you act that way, you will never have to worry about yourself; God will always take care of you." That's the universal mantra all superstars subscribe to.

2. They are Very Humble, Pleasant and Soft-spoken -- Superstars tend to be incredibly humble, delightfully pleasant and esthetically soft-spoken. Though the departments or agencies they lead invariably outperform all others but it is beneath their dignity to ever brag about it or take any personal credit for their achievements. In fact, they generally give full credit to their staff, or to a collective effort, at best. Of course, the evil folks around them interpret these great virtues as signs of weakness. It's always the average and overrated that tends to be snob and arrogant. On the other hand, superstars are like saints and, therefore, are uniquely qualified to smile away all evil stimuli. 

3. They are Least Confrontational, Move on when Environment becomes Intolerant -- Superstars are usually the least confrontational and mostly the low-key kind. They never waste time and energy on meaningless or greed-filled confrontations and exercises. On the contrary, they are extremely smooth operators, uplifting the environment with unprecedented intellectual faculty and superior emotional stability. As they know their mission all too well, they rarely stick to one job for too long. Despite the conventional wisdom, they move on for newer and bigger challenges when they realize they do not have much more to contribute to that environment. Alternatively, when they face intolerant environments (e.g., psycho boss, confrontational peers, unmanageable staff, hostile labor unions, etc.), they move on, knowing very well that there is a better home elsewhere. Money, power and prominence do not entice them. Contributing at the highest level is the sole mission of their existence.

4. Steve Jobs' Manpower Plan is tailor-made for them -- Steve Jobs (RIP) used to say, "It does not make sense to hire smart people and and tell them what to do. We hire smart people to tell us what to do." In other words, great institutions hire the best and let them work on projects of their own choosing, thus allowing them the opportunity to maximize contributions to the business objective. Superstars always look for such flexible environments, with adaptable supervisors. They do not enjoy environments where they have to constantly take instructions from the second-rate supervisors. As they get started, they quickly learn and understand the big picture, figuring out where they could be the most productive and contribute optimally. A great operations manager is a great employee, but not a superstar. A superstar is an original thinker, a consistent enterprise-level solutions provider, a selfless team player, and a passionate protector of all. They love what they do. 

5. They Prove their Vision in important Management Meetings -- While superstars tend to be low-key, they take control of the important management meetings, ensuring that their vision sets the agenda. This is not a selfish act; this is done to educate the attending senior management of the availability of the forward-looking agenda that aligns more effectively with the corporate objective than the erstwhile agenda often promoted by the incompetent supervisors (in place due to political appointments, nepotism, favoritism, quotas, etc.) to maintain the status quo and control. When the incompetent steals the limelight, the irrelevant agenda disparages the big picture, denigrating the greater good and weakening the power of the institution. Superstars' DNA forces them to fight tooth and nail to strengthen the institution, not ever weaken it. 

6. To Them, Quality is Everything -- Their lives revolve around quality, leaving the quantity to the great employees. So, they carefully research and join environments that continually emphasize and consistently promote quality ahead of quantity. Steve Jobs used to say, "One home run is much better than two doubles." Many brilliant minds dilute themselves by trying to strike a balance between quality and quantity. Fortunately, the budding superstars figure out from the get-go that they are mutually exclusive, so they learn to focus on quality, i.e. research and innovation. In order to entice and hire the superstars, the great visionary entrepreneurs offer disruptive opportunities leading to world-class creativity and innovations, coupled with an unrestricted domain of flexibility with power of decision-making -- the two elements that helped fashion the great institutions like Apple, Google and others.

7. They Know the Importance of Time in Professional Life and how to Optimally Manage it -- This is one area where the superstars beat the other brilliant minds. Superstars come to terms that time is the most precious thing in professional life so they learn to efficiently utilize every moment of it. Their inherent aversion for arrogance teaches them to accept mistakes honestly, making it part and parcel of their professional learning and growth, which in turn help them grow into natural perfectionists. In a way, superstars' lives closely resemble those of the cake decorating champions who never fail to complete their masterpieces on time, every time. Whether they are decorating the next masterpiece or working on applying more intelligence to the Rover on Mars to seek out water under the surface, they are constantly monitoring and managing time, with utmost precision and respect, considering how brief the human life span is and where time waits for none.

8. They believe that the Total is Greater than the Sum of the (Contributing) Parts -- Superstars never waste time and energy in looking at the glass as half full or as half empty; to them, it's always full. They know the sum total of people's strengths far outweighs their weaknesses so their management style is always strength-based. From their young life, they learn to figure out how to harness the strength of an available resource pool to the max. As a result of their ever-positive attitude and outlook towards life and work, the departments or agencies they manage perform incredibly efficiently, remaining consistently ahead of the competition. While the competition evaluates each resource as a combination of strength and weakness, they look at resources as an all-strength event or a composite which, in turn, helps them to deploy and utilize resources at a much faster pace, more effectively, and often incredibly cheaply. 

9. They are Incredibly Efficient Budget Managers and Lead by Example -- While the average and over-rated perennially cry for an ever-expanding budget (that's the only thing they are really good at!) to run from their incompetence, the superstars, on the other hand, constantly prove to the world the need for and the ultimate use of asset management. They are the living proof of: If you place a group of average people under a great leader, they will rock -- just a matter of time. Of course, the flip side is equally true. The reason some great institutions go down the tube is the poor leadership with bankrupt vision. On the way down, they keep pointing fingers at everyone and everything except themselves. Superstars never pass the buck. They also develop an excellent eye to seek out talent, putting them in charge of the key and strategic nodes to strengthen their departments or agencies, setting examples for others to follow. Setting and leading by example is inherent in them. But you will never hear them asking for a bigger budget or bragging about their performance. They are smooth and quiet operators.

When a superstar leaves, s/he leaves behind a long-lasting vacuum, rarely replaced. Evils drive them away. Fools rejoice after regaining their paradise. The smart ones share their fond memories for years, telling the world it was their once-in-a-lifetime privilege to have known and worked with a superstar.

Thank you,

Sid Som, MBA, MIM
President, Homequant, Inc.            

Also Read:
How to Ace an Interview
How to Excel at Work and Outclass the Competition

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