Features 14.10.2016Rock Stars vs. High Impact Executives

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Promising tech companies don't need rock stars. They need high impact executives. Yes, there's a difference.

I don’t believe in ‘rock stars’. Ego-centric, whiny, ridiculously demanding, hierarchical – while such individuals may have success at some point, in my experience, their feats are rarely repeated and their subsequent performances generally disappoint. Prima donnas are not what promising young technology businesses need.

What they do require are high impact executives. I’ve been fortunate to work with a few, but I don’t classify them as rock stars.  High impact executives are different.


High impact individuals are in it for themselves but you wouldn’t know it. Instead of prioritising their needs, they prioritise those of the company.  They understand that their chances of succeeding greatly improve if they put the company first.

What does this look like?  For one, they’re brutally honest with themselves and have an understanding of where they’re weak.  They fill these gaps with people who are better than them.  In some cases, they may even pay people more than them.  Being wrong?  Doesn’t matter if it’s ultimately for the good of the business. What does matter is the removal of obstacles and limiting factors.

Such people do exist. They even have egos and emotions. But they still place other’s needs above their own for the benefit of something greater. This is how they generate success.  And by acting this way, they become greater leaders in the eyes of their colleagues. They make better decisions, inspire greater loyalty and create more opportunity.

Masters of Narrative

“Who are we when we are in this company? Why should this company exist? What commitment are we making to our market and community?”

The answers to these questions form the basis of narrative, the company’s reason for being. Narrative is rooted in history, values and emotion. It defines an ideal and holds those around it to a higher standard. It is tribal, connecting at a deep level, capable of turning groups into teams. It changes mindsets and behaviours and becomes unstoppable.

High impact executives know one of their most important contributions is the development of a compelling narrative. This leads to the genesis of high impact teams and value propositions that connect with the company’s ecosystem. It provides the reason for being. And it makes companies stand out.

Team Builders

High impact companies are amazing places to work, driven by a sense of mission and purpose. They’re also creative and fun. People are free to be themselves. They’re healthily challenged by their work and they enjoy strong connections with their colleagues. They’re like families – in some cases, closer.

High impact executives are the architects for these amazing environments. They are interested in great people, not great looking CVs, preferring to hire for team fit, not a team page. They understand that motivation doesn’t come from stock options, a larger salary, or the occasional motivational speech. It comes from allowing people to express their true selves and connect with others. Such environments foster new levels of creativity and inspiration, ushering in significant breakthroughs.


When failure happens, and it always happens, high impact executives don’t make it personal. They plan for it, learn from it, bounce back and move on.

Technology isn’t working?  They keep going and find a new starting point. Market strategy isn’t yielding results quickly enough? They design more market tests, monitor closely and keep at it.

Growth orientation is a fundamental way of being that involves focusing on the ultimate prize whilst remaining open to the route that gets you there. Agility, flexibility and resilience are key, as is the inclination to act.  It provides the adaptability and focus required to keep going and not quit.


No one comes into business knowing and practicing these qualities. They’re learned the hard way – through missteps, failed attempts, trial and error. Success helps too. In fact, in my experience, individuals who possess these qualities are often those who have experienced significant success before. This means that high impact qualities can be learned.

For those wishing to build high impact organisations, they’re vital.

Chris Reichhelm is the founder of the Peloton Leadership Network, a management consulting group that helps young technology businesses maximise their talents, capabilities and opportunities. Through executive data analytics, coaching & education and executive search services, we help transform high potential businesses into high impact companies.