Let's face it: talent is overrated. The world is full of incredibly talented people who remain unknown and unappreciated. At the same, it's also full marginally and utterly untalented people (Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian) who successfully capture and hold the public imagination.
The same is true in the workplace. The typical company is full of brilliant, creative people who get stuck doing donkey work or supporting their less-talent, but more successful colleagues. And at the same time, in every organization, there is always one or two individuals who maybe aren't all that talented but who manage to shine bright, no matter what happens.
Those people, of course, are the rock stars.
This is not to say that there aren't rock stars (in music and the workplace) who actually have talent. It's just that talent, frankly, isn't as important as knowing how to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Here's how to get that star power, regardless of how much talent you actually have:
1. Cultivate a distinctive personal style.
Rock stars in the music industry have visual "hooks" that help you identify them at a glance. Sometimes it's a way they dress (Cher, Lady Gaga), sometimes it's a specific hairdo (Ariana Grande, Weird Al Yankovich), but the idea is to adopt an appearance that's distinctive and memorable.
Rock stars in the business world do the same thing. The most obvious example is Steve Jobs's signature black slacks and black turtleneck. Other techniques I've observed include a strategist who wore a totally white suit, a marketing guru who sported dramatic makeup even in the daytime, and a top salesperson who wore an unusual hat at every trade show.
Takeaway: Don't look like everyone else.
2. Exude overconfidence.
Even if you're wildly talented, it takes a lot of chutzpah to get up on that stage and start singing. Even more so, if your talent is marginal. The only way to survive is to be so incredibly confident in yourself that that your audience takes you at your own self-assessment.
The same is true in the workplace. When you're 100% confident you can add value to absolutely any project or situation, most people will assume that's actually the case. Indeed, many a workplace "rock star" career is built entirely on echoing and promoting the great ideas of other, more-talented people.
Takeaway: Believe in yourself. Totally.
3. Find a parade and get out in front.
People who are truly talented tend to work long hours to perfect their craft and that's perfectly OK is you love the craft for its own sake. Rock stars, however, have an unerring sense of what people want to hear and then give them what they want. That's why Taylor Swift (not all that talented, frankly) is world-famous while the Muse (talented but quirky) remains stubbornly niche.
At work, "giving them what they want" means associating yourself with, and becoming the spokesperson for, those ideas and projects that are most likely to get funded and management attention. This is not stealing your coworker's thunder. A rock star assigned to a project gives it better visibility and can create more momentum and cohesion.
Takeaway: Glom onto high-visibility projects.
4. Give frequent and public credit to your "back-up band."
When rock stars perform in concert they always--ALWAYS--make a big deal about their backup band, introducing each by name and letting them perform a brief solo. By doing so, the star isn't just being nice; every rock star knows that a backup band makes or breaks a performance. So best keep them happy and proud to be on stage with you.
Similarly, if you're a rock star at work, you must constantly and publicly give full and fulsome credit and praise to everyone working with and for you. If you're truly sincere, your coworkers won't resent your visibility but instead will actively recruit you be on their team.
Takeaway: once you capture the limelight, share in the glory.