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  • Writer's pictureDario Priolo

Leadership Lessons: How to Support and Lead Star Performers Through Adversity

In any organization, star performers sometimes face significant challenges, whether due to personal adversity, professional setbacks, or health issues. Players like Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. have experienced such setbacks, requiring a nuanced approach to management that balances recognition, autonomy, and accountability. Here are three concrete lessons for managers on effectively supporting and leading star performers through difficult times.

1. Tailor Leadership to Individual Needs

Star performers often require personalized support and leadership to navigate their unique challenges. Managers should tailor their leadership style to meet the specific needs of each team member, understanding their strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals. This involves engaging in regular one-on-one meetings to discuss their progress, aspirations, and any obstacles they may be facing. Personalized development plans that align with an individual's career goals and capabilities can help them stay motivated and focused on their recovery and growth.

Concrete Steps:

  • Conduct Regular One-on-One Meetings: Use these sessions to understand the personal and professional goals of your employees and tailor your support accordingly.

  • Provide Personalized Development Opportunities: Offer training and projects that align with the employee's career aspirations and strengths.

2. Foster a Culture of Recognition and Appreciation

Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of star performers, even during challenging times, is crucial for maintaining their motivation and engagement. Managers should create a culture of recognition where employees feel valued for their contributions. This can be achieved through regular feedback, public acknowledgment of accomplishments, and meaningful rewards. Recognizing the efforts of all team members, not just the star performers, is essential to maintaining team morale and cohesion. This approach ensures that everyone feels appreciated and motivated to contribute their best.

Concrete Steps:

  • Implement a Recognition Program: Develop a structured program that includes both formal and informal recognition methods, such as awards, public praise, and personal notes.

  • Be Genuine and Specific: Ensure that recognition is authentic and specific to the employee's contributions, which enhances its impact and fosters a positive work environment.

3. Balance Autonomy with Accountability

Star performers often thrive when given a balance of autonomy and accountability. Managers should trust their high performers by allowing them to take ownership of their work while holding them accountable for their results. This involves setting clear goals and expectations, providing the necessary resources, and avoiding micromanagement. By doing so, managers can empower their employees to innovate and excel while also ensuring that they remain aligned with the organization's objectives.

Concrete Steps:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Communicate the goals, roles, responsibilities, and performance standards for each team member and the team as a whole.

  • Provide Regular Feedback: Establish regular check-ins and feedback mechanisms to ensure that employees are on track and promptly address any issues.


Managing star performers through adversity requires a thoughtful and balanced approach. Managers can effectively support and lead their high performers by tailoring leadership to individual needs, fostering a culture of recognition, and balancing autonomy with accountability. These principles not only help star performers navigate their challenges but also contribute to the overall success and resilience of the organization.

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