Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

The Difference Between Fans and Admirers

While watching the news coverage of Walter Cronkite’s death this week, I started thinking of comparisons to pop star Michael Jackson. I realized that Michael had “fans,” and Walter had “admirers.” People loved Michael’s music and what he did on the stage. His personal life however, left much to be desired. Walter Cronkite on the other hand wasn’t terribly spectacular, but he was brilliant at his job, and it literally impacted an entire nation. Personally, Cronkite was married for nearly sixty-five years to Mary Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Maxwell Cronkite. They were married on March 30, 1940, and remained together until her death in 2005. Jackson on the other hand had
a bizarre and often unhappy personal life to say the least.

The bottom line is that people loved what Michael did, but they loved who Walter was. It’s common these days to say that an artist, performer, leader, or celebrity should only be valued for the work he or she performs, and their personal life should have no bearing on the issue. Perhaps I’m a little old fashioned in that regard, and tend to believe your personal life, moral values, and spiritual bearing says a lot about the bigger picture of what your life and work means.

Do you want fans or admirers? Are you more interested in what people think of what you do? Or who you are?

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7 Comments

  1. Great post, Phil. You’re right on. I’m pretty sure most of my efforts go toward making people like me, particularly in that I do nice things or whatever. Thanks for the thoughts.

  2. Hi Phil,

    I suppose that if I had to point to a fundamental difference between why someone is admired (such as Cronkite was) or merely the subject of fan-worship, I’d boil it down to substance.   Walter Cronkite brought substance with his news reporting.  Rarely did he wander into editorializing for its own sake (the current crop of “journalists” could learn something) – and then only when he let you know he’d come to the conclusion after long reflection.  When you finished watching one of his newscasts or documentaries, you felt you’d been educated, challenged and changed.

    MJ, on the other hand, was both a reflection of and molder of a pop culture that has had little real sense of itself, beyond the immediate gratification of its need to be entertained.   His “contributions” are certainly not something I’d consider substantive, educational, challenging. or life-changing.

    Bill D.

  3. Phil you make an excellent point – as usual. I only wish that while the fans around the world mourned (and the media covered) the loss of Michael Jackson, you would have had something to say about it, instead of remaining silent until now.  Just my honest opinion.

    Allen Paul Weaver III Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers and Speedsuit Powers (Sept 2009) http://www.APW3.com

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