Why highly regarded leaders don’t always do the best work – and why they should be critiqued like everybody else

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High performance on one project does not guarantee high performance on the next.

  • A leader’s high status among peers doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome for the projects they lead.
  • High-status people are prone to high highs and low lows, while moderate statuses have higher averages.
  • Executives must remember to critique their stars, too, and not let ego overshadow the actual work.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When it comes to leading a successful project, sometimes having too much status can be a bad thing.

Take, for example, video-game producer George Brussard, who in 1997 announced plans for a new game, “Duke Nukem Forever.” Expectations were high: Brussard’s previous title, “Duke Nukem 3D,” was one of the top-selling video games of all time, beloved by critics and players alike.

But instead of another smash hit, “Duke Nukem Forever became a legendary boondoggle, released more than a decade late to lackluster reviews and fan response. What went wrong?

It may seem shocking when an iconic leader like Brussard swings and misses, but it’s not uncommon, according to research from Brayden King, a professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School. In a new study of the video-game industry, King and his coauthors – Balazs Szatmari of the University of Amsterdam, and Dirk Deichmann and Jan van den Ende of Erasmus University – found that a leader’s high status among their peers doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome for the projects they lead. Indeed, it can often be a liability.

Leaders with high status, the research revealed, are prone to extremes – big successes or big flops – while moderate status is associated with the highest average level of project performance.

Why? With status comes everything a leader needs for a project to succeed: resources, support, the faith of executives, and team members. But there is peril, too: high-status project leaders are often overburdened. And precisely because of their status, the people around them may not offer honest feedback.

“We tend to be too deferential to people who we consider to be higher status. And where we give deference, what we should be doing is increasing our scrutiny – or at least, scrutinize them as much as we do people of lower status,” King said. “There is greater potential for them to let their egos take control and produce something that sounds good to them but that is in reality a terrible idea.”

Read more: I’m a first-time founder who raised $2.5 million despite the pandemic upending the fundraising process. I know why we were successful.

Game on: testing status and performance

The researchers focused their study on the video-game industry – a useful test-bed because of the large quantity of games released each year to an audience of vocal, engaged fans. But, King said, “I don’t think these findings are just characteristic or a dynamic specific to the video-game industry.” Any field where leaders can attain status is subject to the same set of forces.

To begin, the researchers assembled a database of 745 games produced by leading companies between 2008 and 2012, for which full information about the development team was publicly available. They winnowed that list down to games with a single producer who was not a first-time producer, leading to a final sample of 349 titles. Data on performance came from the popular MobyGames database, which aggregates critic and user reviews.

To assess producers’ status, the researchers used their “network positions” – a statistical measure based on patterns of who has collaborated with whom within an organization. The idea, Szatmari said, is that people who are well-connected tend to be the best-regarded.

“If you enter in a room and you see someone surrounded by many people, you think, ‘Oh, that person must know something.’ There’s a reason why people are around them,” he said. “If many people want to work with you or seek your advice, that’s a sign of competence.”

Then, the researchers analyzed the relationship between producer status and game performance – controlling for a variety of factors that might affect success, such as year of release, team size, and whether the game broke technological or conceptual ground and involved greater risk.

When too much status can be a bad thing

What they discovered was an inverted U-shaped relationship between producer status and average game performance. In other words, having status helped – until it didn’t. Middle-status producers had the best average performance, while high-status and low-status producers fared about the same.

However, while high-status and low-status producers had similar average performance scores, in the case of high-status producers, that stemmed from extreme variation in performance. Some had wild successes and others abject failures, resulting in an average comparable to low-status producers.

These patterns were reflected in observations from industry insiders, whose comments offered a qualitative complement to the researchers’ statistical analysis – and Szatmari said, “helped shed light on some of the causal explanations for what was going on.”

For instance, the researchers suspected that high-status producers’ tendency to flounder stemmed from being overwhelmed because, given their reputation, everyone wanted some of their time.

One producer put it this way: “I can certainly notice that as my status grows, my productivity goes down. When people are not absolutely clear, I start to miss the signals … until somebody says something like, ‘I need help!’ In the past, I had more time for processing the information, but now, if somebody doesn’t scream then I don’t see the problem.”

Another insider confirmed that executives’ faith in high-status producers can lead them to ignore serious problems in a project. Once, the insider said, a legendary producer sold company owners on a game that many employees questioned. It quickly spiraled out of control, but the owners didn’t see it, despite employees’ repeated attempts to raise concerns.

As for the high success rate of intermediate-status producers, King believes it’s partly attributable to career phase. People with moderate status are likely to be mid-career, a time when they are trusted but still hungry. They’ve attained “enough status and recognition that now people are willing to put resources behind them, but they’re also still striving to reach the top” – and aren’t yet surrounded by yes-men. This combination of ingredients, he believes, accounts for their success.

Why companies should scrutinize their stars

It’s easy for companies to assume their most well-regarded leaders have things under control – after all, they got that positive reputation for a reason. But King said it’s essential for executives to pay extra attention to stars when they are leading important projects.

When people are put in charge, there’s “a double whammy,” King said: our egos can swell at the same time as those around us stop telling us the truth, “so they’re constantly giving us feedback that we’re always right.”

So he has a word of advice for anyone taking charge of a project: “Be aware of this potential in yourself.” Learning to accept negative feedback isn’t easy, but it can save you from a disaster.

“People only give us the feedback they perceive we’re comfortable taking,” King said. “And if we’re not open to being told ‘no,’ when we’re in a high-status position, people probably won’t tell us ‘no’ enough.”

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Star on Disney Plus: International subscribers will get access to a new channel with R-rated movies and shows on February 23

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Star Disney Streaming Service
Star will add R-rated content to Disney Plus for international viewers.

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Starting February 23, some Disney Plus subscribers outside the United States will gain a new channel, called Star, that features Disney’s adult-oriented movies and shows. Disney Plus launched as a family-friendly streaming service in November 2020 and until now all of its programming has been rated for kids age 13 and below.

However, Disney has a large library of R-rated films and shows for older audiences thanks to its acquisition of 21st Century Fox and ABC’s steady stream of primetime dramas. That collection includes popular shows like “Family Guy,” “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as blockbuster movies like “Deadpool” and “Die Hard.” Viewers in the US can already stream most of that catalog on Hulu, but Hulu isn’t available outside of the US and Japan.

Disney Plus subscribers in the US won’t have to worry about any of the changes coming to the streaming service, but as a new Disney entertainment brand, Star could become a household name in international markets. In January, Disney said it had more than 146 million subscribers spread across its different streaming services, including 94.9 million Disney Plus members. Star will help the company continue to expand its streaming options overseas.

What is Star on Disney Plus?

Star is a new entertainment brand geared toward older viewers rather than just kids and families. It will bring Disney-owned movies and shows from ABC, FX, Fox, and ESPN to Disney Plus subscribers outside of the US.

Star will launch as a channel within the Disney Plus app, but Disney also plans to make a separate streaming service called Star Plus in Latin America.

When does Star launch on Disney Plus and where is it available?

Star will be available on February 23 for Disney Plus subscribers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and certain parts of Europe. Disney says it plans to bring the service to Eastern Europe, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong later in 2021.

For Latin American viewers, Disney plans to launch a separate streaming service called Star Plus in June 2021. Star Plus will also include live sports content from ESPN, and can be bundled with Disney Plus for a discount.

Is Star content available on Disney Plus in the US?

The Star section of Disney Plus will not be available to US subscribers, but a lot of the content included through Star is already streaming on Hulu.

Hulu will continue to offer Disney-owned movies and shows for older viewers in the US, while Star will be its entertainment brand for older viewers outside of the US.

How much does Star cost with Disney Plus?

Star is included with the standard price of Disney Plus, but that price will go up when Star launches on February 23. Prices will increase by about 33% on average, though it depends on the region. Below you can see a full list of Disney Plus prices going into effect on February 23, based on region.

  • Australia – $11.99 a month or $119.99 per year
  •  Canada  – $11.99 a month or $119.99 per year
  • Denmark – 79.00kr a month or 790.00kr per year
  • Euro – 8.99 a month or 89.90 per year
  • New Zealand – $12.99 a month or $129.99 per year
  • Norway – 89.00kr a month or 890.00kr per year
  • Singapore – $11.98 a month or $119.98 per year
  • Sweden – 89.00kr a month or 890.00kr per year
  • Switzerland – CHF12.90 a month or CHF129.00 per year
  • UK – £7.99 a month or £79.90 per year

How do I watch Star on Disney Plus?

Star movies and shows will be added to Disney Plus automatically; existing Disney Plus subscribers will be asked to enter their password to unlock the channel to make sure kids aren’t accessing R-rated content on their own.

You can access Disney Plus via the official website or with the Disney Plus app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple devices, Android, Xbox, PlayStation, and most smart TV brands. Like all streaming services you’ll need internet to watch Star, but the Disney Plus app will also let you download movies and shows for offline viewing.

Disney Plus offers streaming in up to 4K resolution with support for Dolby Vision and HDR, but it’s not clear whether all movies on Star will support the same level of quality.

What can I watch on Star on Disney Plus?

Star will add hundreds of shows and movies to Disney Plus, including series from ABC, Fox, 20th Century Studios, Touchstone Pictures, ESPN, and Hulu. That’s decades’ worth of content, with hit series like “Family Guy,” “How I Met Your Mother,” and “Scandal,” as well as blockbuster movies like “Deadpool ” and “Die Hard.”

Click here for the official list of the shows and movies coming to Star, and check out some of the highlights below.

  • “Borat”
  • “Be Water”
  • “Braveheart”
  • “Con Air”
  • “Deadpool” franchise
  • “Desperate Housewives”
  • “Die Hard”
  • “Family Guy”
  • “Firefly”
  • “Glee”
  • “Good Morning Vietnam”
  • “Grey’s Anatomy”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • “How I Met Your Mother”
  • “Idiocracy”
  • “Modern Family”
  • “Office Space”
  • “Planet of the Apes”
  • “Romeo + Juliet”
  • “Scandal”
  • “Starship Troopers”
  • “The Thin Red Line”
  • “Ugly Betty”
  • “The X-Files”
  • “24”
  • “9-1-1”
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