Star Performers: Three Types of Star Employees that Excel at Value Creation

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Stellar classification has long been used in astronomy to differentiate stars and predict stellar evolution, but can a similar typology be applied to star employees? In their paper published in Journal of Management, “Let’s Call a Star a Star: Task Performance, External Status, and Exceptional Contributors in Organizations,” authors Rebecca R. Kehoe, David P. Lepak, and F. Scott Bentley suggest a new typology for star employees, based on employee task performance and status. The authors explain how separating performance and status in their typology allows for a better understanding of how employees create value in direct and indirect ways.

The abstract:

We develop a new typology of star employees, wherein we identify three types of stars—universal stars, performance stars, and status stars—on the basis of stars’ unique combinations of task performance and external status. By classifying stars in this way and disentangling task performance and external status as unique and simultaneously important qualities underlying the distinct contributions of different types of stars, we provide a basis for more accurately identifying the full range of individuals who create exceptional value, and we offer novel insights into stars’ JOM 41(3)_Covers.inddvarious influences in organizations. With this foundation, we explore how different types of stars’ distinct qualities and bases of value creation affect both the security of their star standing and their relative abilities to appropriate value. We then expand our focus to consider stars in the broader organizational contexts in which they exist, discussing the implications of stars’ distinct attributes for patterns of value creation, value capture, and value preservation associated with stars’ complementarities and redundancies with other organizational resources. Finally, we propose several lines of inquiry through which future research may leverage the proposed typology to address issues related to the management of different types of stars in the broader organizational contexts in which they are embedded.

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