Career Confessions of Gen Z – The Bass Player

Have you seen the movie Almost Famous? It’s a great movie but I’ve always struggled with watching the movie’s fictitious band, Stillwater, head towards disaster as they come to grips with fame.

The infighting of the band members is unnerving. The guitarist has a charisma that sets him apart from his band mates, and the lead singer is pissed that he isn’t recognized as the “front man”. There are a few other members of the band as well, but they don’t matter in the grand scheme. Long-term success of the band hinges on the tumultuous relationship between the guitarist and singer.

A while ago, I had the fortune of meeting three impressive individuals at a conference. These individuals are positioned incredibly well to bring a much needed, and very disruptive, product to an industry. They had great chemistry as a team and gave a well-polished elevator pitch as a three piece.

As I watched them woo a string of investors, I was trying to figure out the characteristics that made this team particularly impressive. Then, it hit me as I was having a sidebar with two of the members.

We were talking about the role each member played. In the midst of the explanation, one of the members excitedly blurted out that they were like the bass player of the “band”. The other member contested, saying that it was in fact themself that played the role of bass player. Some friendly jabs were thrown, and that’s when it hit me.

This band of innovators will continue be successful together because they were arguing about which member was the bass player. Not because they didn’t want to be the bass player, but because they were humble enough to each feel and understand that the bass player played as integral a role as the front person.

Seriously, who the hell wants to be the bass player?

Don’t get me wrong, I love all things music, and as a result, tremendously respect the role of the bass player.

If you’d like to geek out with me for a moment – a few favs among so many others include: John Paul Jones, Flea, Krist Novoselic, Sting, anything relative to reggae or jazz – but I digress. Bass players drive the song, and nothing can replace an iconic bass line.

Despite this, I’d argue we don’t always recognize them. As it translates into business, we often overlook the value individuals bring to the collaborative process of a project. Even if we tell ourselves we’re team players, and for most part exemplify it, it’s easy to slip into the trap of putting our own progress and recognition before team success.

All of this to say, it just wasn’t the case in what I experienced at the conference. I continued to watch this band take down question after question from investors. They had the upper hand.

Just like a break in the concert where each band member is highlighted and shows off their chops with a solo, each member took the leading role when it was their time during the Q&A, and then quietly slipped back into a supporting role as the next member rose to the occasion.

No Stillwater fate for these guys. I can’t wait to see what they do in the coming months. How about yourself – are you content being the bass player for your “band”?

Quintin Meek a talent consultant at Pillar Technology (part of Accenture Industry X.0). Also an active member of Detroit’s startup and tech community. Every day is something new and challenging, and I am learning more than ever before. I’m finding that I’ve become a lifelong student, and I’m excited to see how that continues to shape the road ahead.

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