I also write over at Jobstr.com and this is the latest question I answered.
Q: “So you've worked for some pretty powerful people - without naming names do you think any of them weren't all that qualified, but just got lucky to get where they are?”
LOL What a great question! I can see why you would be inclined to ask it, however, everyone I worked for actually was very qualified and wasn’t lucky in the sense that they were “born into a Hollywood family." If anything, almost everyone I worked for had zero Hollywood background, per se, but succeeded either because they were very, very brilliant in well-rounded ways with people skills, knew other elements of Hollywood such a story/character arcs, or were driven and passionate about the business that they came in from the very bottom in an entry level role and worked their a**es off for decades to then run an entire company. With credentials such as that, one doesn’t “fail up” to become CEO or a major executive and run a Fortune 100 company.
In case you are curious, what I did learn from all my business reading is three fold.
1) Failing up is used as a tactic when a dept head doesn’t want to deal with someone so they promote them out of their own dept so the next higher up inherits the problem person. In this way, an unqualified executive does not fail up to become a CEO and run a company because they won’t be qualified enough, and sooner or later the inheriting executive/dept head will realize what’s going on. So then the problem person either ends up never getting promoted past an invisible ceiling, gets passed around depts at the same company or competing companies in the same industry, laid off, or they leave to pursue a different/sister field.
2) Most executives are hired for their smarts, but are let go for their hearts. This means they don’t know how to run a team, network, lack emotional intelligence, and/or make some sort of social or political misstep that is such a huge PR blunder, they can’t stay at the company. This emphasizes more and more that generally everyone is qualified/smart in a role, what matter is if people like you.
3) Hard work and sheer determination will get you a lot further if you want it bad enough and hang in there long enough. Enthusiasm, passion, wanting to learn/grow, being great to work for and being smart enough is a better asset than just being innately brilliant without people skills. How you apply the aforementioned qualities and strengths to benefit your team, dept, and company is demonstrated through one's managerial, leadership, visionary, strategic, and financial skill set. Two things that will benefit any leader or up and comer is understanding financials/budgets and working well with all different personality types and communication styles.
I will leave you with this quote.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” -Calvin Coolidge
As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 3-4 days to answer.
I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.