Do you want to be a Rockstar?

A woman points, then says,

Or do you want to be a Superstar?

A young man in a movie theatre says,

Celebrities are awesome, but we're not talking about them here. Rockstars and Superstars can be used to classify working styles.

A cheerleader asks,

Knowing these two working styles will be useful to understand their motivations for career growth.

Who's A Rockstar?

A Rockstar is solid as a rock! They're reliable, stable, and consistent.

A person on top of a giant rock by the ocean. Photo by Winggo Tse on Unsplash

Rockstars are high-performing individuals in an organization who:

  • Possess rock-solid knowledge and expertise, so they're masters of their craft

  • Are steady and reliable, since they keep things running smoothly

  • Are happy where they are, so they don't usually seek a promotion or a new job

  • Provide stability and high productivity to their teams and organizations

Who's A Superstar?

A Superstar is bright as the stars! They have a strong presence, are passionate and ambitious.

A bright galaxy of stars in the night sky. Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Superstars are also top performers in an organization. But they operate differently from Rockstars. They:

  • Have high levels of curiosity, so they're always experimenting

  • Move fast and push their limits by taking on new challenges

  • Are ambitious and aim to grow, so they like to seek promotions or new job opportunities

  • Offer creativity and competitive edge to their teams and organizations

Which is Better?

A Superstar isn't better than a Rockstar, and vice versa. Both individuals bring their unique talents to teams and organizations, increasing the likelihood of success.

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Rockstars make sure that the pace of work is steady and sustainable, allowing their teams to deliver high-quality work without compromising their well-being.

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Superstars challenge the status quo, nudging their teams to embrace change and explore new horizons.

Additionally, being a Rockstar or a Superstar isn’t permanentyour style can change depending on your:

  • Personality

  • Current phase in your career journey

  • Professional goals

  • Non-work priorities

Is There a Golden Ratio for Employers?

A spiral stairway representing the Golden Ratio.

A good mix depends on the characteristics of the organization, the team, and what needs to be done. So there is no golden ratio.


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Startups need more Superstars than Rockstars because individuals take on multiple roles, the working pace is very fast, and the business environment is ever-changing.

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Companies undergoing mergers or acquisitions need more Rockstars than Superstars as there is an urgent need for domain experts and stabilizing the organization.

Why are These Styles Important?

Understanding the dynamics of Rockstars and Superstars can be significant for:

  • Assigning people to the best roles and delegating projects and tasks effectively

  • Enabling more diverse team composition

  • Making one-on-one career conversations more valuable

  • Motivating individuals so they're satisfied in their jobs

A trio of happy, motivated employees at work. Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

For Rockstars, the most effective incentives are:

  • Acknowledging their hard work

  • Assigning them as go-to experts if they like teaching/mentoring

  • Providing constructive feedback and fair performance ratings

  • Respecting their wishes for deeper expertise instead of promotion to leadership positions

For Superstars, the most effective incentives are:

  • Encouraging their ideas

  • Offering them challenges

  • Giving them autonomy in their work

  • Supporting their growth, even if they may be promoted or leave your team someday

Quiz: Hannah the Superstar

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Hannah likes to go above and beyond in delivering outstanding results when working on tasks and projects. She is often on the lookout for new opportunities that can help advance her career.

What action would be most effective for Hannah to advocate for herself?

A. Attend an industry conference or workshop to expand her knowledge.

B. Ask her manager/leader if she can get involved in a prestigious project with high visibility.

C. Find a mentor who can provide guidance and support for her career growth.

D. Request remote work or flexible scheduling to accommodate her commitments.


Choose the best action for Hannah:

Best Practices

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As an employee:

  • Understand your working style to plan your career development path

  • Communicate this with your leader/manager so they can look out for you

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As a team member:

  • Understand how your working style and contributions affect the team dynamics

  • Look out for mentoring opportunities between people with the same, or even different styles

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As a team leader:

  • Understand your own inclinations to reduce bias in performance feedback

  • Manage and motivate individuals effectively in ways that best fit them

  • Balance growth and stability in your team

  • Be the best partner for your employees — don't be absent, but don't micro-manage either

Take Action

No matter if you're a Rockstar or a Superstar, it's important to advocate for yourself and ensure that you're respected, appreciated and recognized for the valuable performance and contributions you bring to the table.

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