Supporting cast – The unsung heroes and invisible leaders
Eery time I log into LinkedIn I see posts of immense success. New challenges being agreed on, new jobs, stories on how much work has been done on certain projects and even the personal battles with sickness or loss are being written with pure, unadulterated ego in mind. This made me think though; Would they post the same if they were mediocre? Would their voices be heard if they hadn’t really done much other than being the supporting character in other people’s story? Based on my own experiences (and side notes / papers) I will dive deeper into a group of people that truly deserve more praise: The supporting cast.
It is often said that to be successful, either professionally or personally, you have to set your mind to it and have a pro-active mindset to achieve your goals. Although I do agree with this, I’d like to put down a little sidenote in which I want to highlight the case of charisma and general likeability. Even things like physical attraction and general attractiveness in the public eye weighs in on traditional succes, as very well documented in a 2019 article by Allana Akhtar and Drake Baer for Business Insider. But what happens if you’re not one of the lucky ones?
I myself aren’t bad looking I think. I struggle with the same problems a lot of men do my age do concerning weight and health I guess but I have enough self esteem and experience in public speaking to more than save myself when put in front of an unknown crowd. Yet where friends, family and co-workers have been knighted and honoured with requests to speak publicly or asked to apply their own knowledge to a group of unknowns, I can’t recall that I ever have. And It’s not just me, it’s a lot of others as well. What makes it that some people get approached for a masterclass or TEDx talk and others don’t, even when they (in theory) may just be just as deserving? Is it really a simple case of it being a self-fulfilling prophecy?
“The safe bet has proven to always be the most successful one”
If we are to assume this is the case than it’s a mere product of motivation. According to Psychology Today the definition of motivation is “the desire to act in service of a goal. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining our objectives”. So is (public) success a matter of just wanting it more? I reckon this isn’t true. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to psychology, drive and the need to be seen but I damn sure know that it hasn’t got anything to do with wanting it more. I think it has more in common with fear of expression or fitting a mold. The safe bet has proven to always be the most successful one.
Now, work is only one thing to be acknowledged for. Because of the more platonic and distant, professional demeanor you can expect that certain amounts of recognition are in fact down to how we portray ourselves. After all, even when you’re a good person it won’t necessarily mean that in a professional environment you’ll be successful. If your social standards don’t meet the ones in charge or if your personal preference of clothing or otherwise don’t agree with the view of the board of directors or anything like that however, it can easily be assumed you will be lower down the proverbial totem pole when it comes down to how much pull you have in a company, no matter how well you do your job.
Recently at my day job we introduced a system in which we can give each member of the team a small compliment for a job well done. Since I work in an environment in which social skills are essential and success is measured in how many people we help, I can’t agree more with this positive affirmation. I do however wonder if this sort of system won’t leave out those who go unnoticed. After all, we all grew up looking at the caste system in school of sorts, pitching the high school jocks and cheerleaders against the freaks and geeks. Even though a lot less obvious, I think that kind of ranking never really goes away during our lifetime, and there will always be a victor and one pulling the cart in the end.
“It’s intrinsic motivation, sure, but it’s sure nice to get a bit of that small piece of external love as well sometimes”
Now before the arguments start, I’d like to state that this isn’t a plea for recognition on my part (although if anyone’s offering, I have years and years of stage experience and plenty of knowledge on a variety of subjects, wink wink, nudge nudge). This is more of a plea to put a spotlight on the driving force. The 99%. As the title stated; This is about the ones behind the screens. A play can’t function without it’s supporting cast. A TEDx talk can’t function without the people behind the screens doing their magic. A television show can’t function without the people operating the camera. And they too deserve to be appreciated and heard, even offered a stage if they’d like.
So is this a cry for help? No. This is a call to action. A way of providing insight into how much insight, effort and knowledge we take for granted or can’t oversee, both professionally and personally. I have never been asked to hold a speech other than when I initiated it. My family never asked me to design something for them either for example. It’s intrinsic motivation, sure, but it’s sure nice to get a bit of that small piece of external love as well sometimes. Let’s make sure everyone gets that appreciation at least once in their lifetime, before we lose that precious 99% to depression, feelings of uselessness or otherwise horrible circumstances. Your performance won’t mean horse shit when you have no one to build the stage.