Startups have a way of casting their founders in the spotlight. And to a large extent, that spotlight is important to the startup’s growth. Press coverage, exclusives in traditional media, trending on social networks, all these help a business gain TOMA (top of mind awareness).
Super successful startups that end up becoming hippos or unicorns (I know, I’m tired of hearing that word as well) automatically turn their founders/CEOs into tech rockstars.
But there comes a time when that popularity and fame may start to have diminishing returns. Let me show you what I mean.
That tweet shows that part of Apple’s success as a business was based on Steve Job’s presence in Cupertino. Not a big surprise, really. The man was a rare breed and no one can deny what he brought to the company during his lifetime.
The problem though is that he was the only true rockstar at the company. Yes I know there was Tony Fadell and some other really talented UI, UX and design experts, but those guys were superstars, not rockstars. It’s like the difference between Britney Spears and Michael Jackson (or Paul Mccartney). At their prime, they are all talented performers, but if given the choice to have a selfie with just one of them, who would it be?
I’d bet not many people would say Britney. That’s because she’s just a superstar, not a rockstar (in this context). Which is the real issue. Steve Jobs’ star was blazing so hard that it was hard for investors and everyone outside Apple to really see just how talented everyone else at the company was.
Compare this with when Google’s rockstars – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – stepped out of the spotlight to usher in an already budding rockstar in his own right, Sundar Pichai, to helm affairs at the company. No one batted as much as an eyelid. The transition was one of the most subtle and seamless I’ve ever seen at a mega corporation. When I consider that scenario against the rehiring of Jack Dorsey as Twitter CEO, and the media buzz it generated, I realise Google executed a rare feat.
There’s a thin Iine between a bloated ego and doing what’s best for the company. And there comes a time when founders and business leaders have to give up the spotlight for the superstars on their team. The more rockstars there are in your company, the better it is for the image of the company, and the easier the transition period will be (if/when the time comes).
The earlier the media starts famzing with the superstars in your company, the better your company will look and the more rockstars your company will eventually produce.
Bottom line: stop hogging the spotlight!