HR: Leadership’s Stunt Doubles

Recently, a dancer named Sarah Lane has been talking to the press about her role in Black Swan.

She danced some (85%? 5%?- it’s up for grabs) of the scenes in the movie, and is angry that Natalie Portman is getting credit.  Lane stated, “To say that someone trained for a year and a half and did what I did is degrading not only to me but to the entire ballet world. They threaten the entire principle of ballet and I feel like I need to say something.”

And then, there was this important detail,  “Another thing Lane was upset over was that she was snubbed from Portman’s Oscar acceptance speech. “I expected it because at that point, I knew,” she said. “I did wish that she could have said something nice about ballet itself instead of saying that it was so horrible and she’s so glad she’s done with it.”

When your company is on Fortune’s 100 best places to work, does your CEO go up to the dais and thank HR, or all company staff? Does he or she ever say anything about HR, other than how glad he or she is that someone is there to take care of it? Do you find your words often coming out of some manager’s mouth, after you’ve coached them about how to handle a delicate leadership issue? Do you yourself often end up doing the “backstage leadership” associated with the successful role-out of a new initiative, or having the hard conversations when a manager just won’t get it done on his own?

In other words, does Lane’s whine sound familiar? We may think it, but hopefully, unlike Lane, we’ve kept these thoughts to ourselves. Whining and looking for credit never, ever gets you what you want.

Fact is – our job is invisible to most people. And it’s supposed to stay that way. Just like stunt doubles, it’s our job to stay fit, mind the details, do the hard stuff in the background, and let others win the Oscars. While I agree that HR needs to stop enabling bad management, as Jason Lauritsen and Trisha McFarlane have discussed, we don’t get the limelight for doing so. And we sure don’t get to complain about not getting the limelight.

If you want the award, then start your own company.  Whining kills your credibility faster than a knee injury kills a ballet career. Sarah Lane may develop some notoriety in the ballet world, but her career in film is now over before it really began.


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