Who’s wagon is your star hitched to?

Posted March 12, 2010 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

There are lots of ways you can unwittingly derail your career.  One of the more interesting ones is to hitch your star onto your boss’s wagon.

I have a “friend” who we’ll call Ricardo, who is absolutely brilliant.  He is your stereotypical “Type A” high performer and is well loved by his boss.

In fact, he’s very similar to his boss in a number of ways.  Both are gregarious, outgoing types who can charm everyone in their path.  Both have very quick minds and can solve complex problems with seemingly magical efficiency.  And both are relentless drivers of performance. 

Ricardo is loved by his boss because (like him), he always gets the results, no matter what.  Because of his outgoing nature, Ricardo’s team love working for him.  He sets tough targets, but motivates really well and gives out recognition freely.  Life is good for Ricardo up and down the organizational hierarchy.

But from the sideways view… not so much.  Ricardo’s approach to delivering results “no matter what” has meant that he’s bullied his way past the needs of his division peers.  None of them like him.  In fact, most of them are just dying for him to fall flat on his face and are eagerly sticking their feet out to make that happen.

For now though, Ricardo is safe.  His boss doesn’t care about the peer issues because Ricardo is his top performer and leads his most important division.  From my (cynical) perspective, with a couple more years before his own retirement, he’s happy with the results coming in so that he can continue to achieve his own bonus.  Why rock the apple cart and give Ricardo some coaching on better ways of managing his sideways relationships??

And so here’s my cautionary point of this post… when Ricardo’s supportive boss swans off into retirement, who’s gonna have dear Ricardo’s back?  The CFO, who is the named successor for the Prez, is Ricardo’s #1 detractor.  Unless Ricardo starts mending some bridges, I don’t hold much hope in his long-term prospects with the organization. No one is an island and if you think peer pressure ends in high school, think again.  Once you get isolated from the pack, you’re done for.

If you’re your bosses “favourite”, make sure you’re not putting all your relationship eggs in that one basket.  And especially don’t underestimate the power of your peers.

Many a career has flamed out because a leader hitched their star to the wrong wagon.  Sure, it’s great to have a strong relationship with your boss… but minimize the importance of building strong peer relationships at your peril.  So, what bridges do you need to repair today?

Happy leading!

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