Rockstar or One-Hit Wonder?

The term “rockstar” gets thrown around a lot in the startup world. It’s supposed to mean someone who’s awesome at what they do, perhaps in the 98th percentile compared to their peers. Some startups will issue a press release touting their latest hire as “a rockstar in the {insert expertise here} world.”

But it seems many are lumped into this category without having much to show for it. Did someone have a cool title at a hot startup for a year, then left before achieving anything significant? What about a “star” developer who can’t show you any examples of what he’s built?

I’ve worked for companies of all sizes. My own personal experience: I’ve seen more rockstars at Fortune 500s than at startups. The real stars don’t achieve excellent results just once; excellence is who they are. Give them any project and they’ll not only crush it, they’ll crush it in a way that makes others want to work with them and makes their bosses look really smart. Their results are awesome and real.

So if the term must be used, let’s at least reserve it for those who earned it. Otherwise your latest rockstar hire may turn out to be a one-hit wonder.

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