Superstars of the business world

I was at Oracle Open World last week, and sat through Larry Ellison’s closing keynote. Twelve thousand people in a closed and dark room, six massive TV screens behind Larry, and the blaring rock music that greeted his arrival on stage. Before he came on the stage, the audience is treated to a montage of Larry’s fantastic yacht race victory in his sci-fi new yacht. His hard-working team, and their hard-charging victory in the America Cup. Thus primed, the audience sat with bated breath, waiting for Larry to speak. And then, he spoke, the audience hanging on to every word. The man can surely hold a crowd.

(You can see clips here). This guy is a rock-star. It is rumored that the IronMan character in the movies is based upon Larry Ellison- that’s how much of a rock star this guy is.

Corporate CEOs need to be rock stars to impress their clients, share-holders and employees, all the while creating fear in the minds of the enemy. It’s all for effect, this audience baiting, this hyper-enunciated speaking, this rabble-rousing. It’s all to good effect.

The question is: Does everyone in the business world have to be a rock star of this variety?

I think not.

It depends on what the person’s strengths are, and what the company needs at the time. Even in the music industry, the true home of the “Rock Star” phenomena, there are different types of musician-heroes. Not everyone is a glam-rocking-fist-pumping-bad-boy! On the contrary, most are not at all in line with this stereotype.

This bad boy image works only for those people who need to reach large stadium-type audiences, and who get their popularity through the media. Exaggerated actions are what will get the attention they want- be it in the stadium, or be it in the press.

There are other types of musicians in the world of music, and in the world of business. All are needed. Here’s a list.

The Songwriter who, like Gulzaar, writes the songs that others become famous for. In the corporate world, this person may be doing all the thinking, allowing others to take the fame.

The band-wallah who, like The Edge or George Harrison is part of successful team, and is not in the limelight, but not too far behind. The show is not about him, but the show cannot go on without him.

The playback singer who, like Sonia-ji is calling the shots but can only be heard through other people. These could be the power-brokers, or the agenda-formers in any company.

Many times the press- even the business press- looks for the rock-stars who can quip in real-time, and who can give fantastic sound-bytes. That’s what the press needs to make their stuff readable. Doesn’t make the “superstar CEO” any better than the effective manager who does not give interviews.

Just a thought! My sketch below. Oh, and the audience soon grew tired of Larry’s pitch. By the end of his presentation, more than half the audience had quietly shuffled out. It was good to have the room darkened!