The leadership challenge of managing talents

The leadership challenge of managing talents

By Dr Pierre Casse, IEDC Professor and Elnura Irmatova, IEDC Research Assistant

Talents?

“You are what you are, but you do not know it”

Talents are essentially what people have that can be activated and used to make a difference for themselves and other people including organizations and societies

They are innate abilities and acquired ones. They are very often consolidated through experience. Developing our talents is about reaching a mastery level in something so that we become able to come up with original and effective solutions to various challenges. Talents have also a kind of artistic connotation i.e., a creative dimension that can be so useful while working on tasks and projects

They are what makes people special and unique. It is a “gift” that many people are not quite aware of. Discovered and activated properly they contribute to what we call a “full life”!

The talents connected with leadership can be: Discovering things before other people, seeing what others do not see, organizing things swiftly and effectively, relating to other people in a smooth and fairly way, designing projects that make good sense, finding the solutions to complex problems, motivating others, managing change effectively, understanding the new technologies, being ethical….

Talents can be discovered by oneself through self-development actions or with the help of people who have been trained to assist (coach) others in discovering what they have in themselves they are not aware of. We can indeed be blind to our talents.

In other words, many people (if not everybody) are more than what they believe they are (or what they are told they are by their managers)

A major issue

“People are more than what they think they are”

Think about it: We have in us some “gold” that we are not even aware of! Yes, it seems that many people are blind to their own potential.

Our main point in this piece of reflection is that many organizations are wasting good talents that exist at the individual and collective levels.

Many leaders ignore the good talents that exist in their organizations; do not invest in the potential talents that many people have without knowing it; do not develop existing abilities so that people can outperform themselves and make a difference by re-inventing at least parts of their work. They do not give a fair chance to people to enjoy the process of helping by being more than what they think they are (or than they are told they are).

profesor p casse

 We are not talking here about those organizational development programs that aim at making sure that people acquire what’s needed to perform well, prepare for new jobs or assignments, and get ready for eventual promotions. We are referring to a new kind organizational of leadership that can switch the “Corporate Social Responsibility” from outside to inside.

 The new motto of the corporate world could become. “Perform and develop people”.

Many leaders are under such pressure to deliver quick and good results that they do not pay enough attention to what many of their “partners” at work can contribute on their own. In other words, they ignore or neglect the good talents (or potential ones) that are available.

The major exception, of course, is what’s happening in many start-ups where the talents are acknowledged and nurtured. You also have some people like Steve Jobs who gave a chance to young men and women to discover their hidden talents by pushing them to the limits .

On top of it, some leaders perceive other people’s talents as a threat. They are not inclined (or excited rather) to lead people who are more talented (at least in some areas) than they are themselves.

The consequences of that leadership behavior are dramatic, especially in the fast-changing world that requires full and smart use of people’s brains and minds

Painful consequences

“The underuse or misuse of talents is unhumanitarian”

Some of the consequences of the mismanagement of talents can be quite serious. People can get bored, demotivated, and resentful. They feel used in ways that do not give them the satisfaction, for instance, to grow on the job.

On the other hand, the organization miss the opportunity to tap an important pool of ideas and limit therefore its effectiveness to survive and grow.

Indeed, people are not pro-active enough in fighting for getting a fair opportunity to be what they can (could) be at work. They are both passive and reactive. They miss the courage required to ask for more chances to perform according to the talents they have.

In short, individuals are not happy and do not reach their full potential at work. While organizations are getting more and more stifled and ignore that corporate social responsibility should start at home.

A life Issue

“Who wants a half-lived life?”

Everybody wants a full life. Businesses and organizations are going to have to re-invent themselves to play the new role that human evolution is going to require from them.

It is a new leadership challenge that requires imagination and courage. It is a must to survive. Do we have a choice?

Flash survey

We asked Dr. Mark Pleško (Managing director of Cosylab, President of Slovenian Academy of Engineering) to share with us his opinion on the points he agrees and disagrees with and what additionally could be interesting to consider:

I absolutely agree with the statement “Many leaders ignore the good  talents that exist in their organizations”. This is too true, because many people, who become leaders, actually don’t have the talents to be leaders.  He added that he disagrees with the statement “People are more than what they think they are”, although finds it partly true –“Yes, people have some talents they’re not aware of. But mostly, they overvalue themselves – starting from our looks, over our intelligence, all the way to the impact we make with our lives.” As a final comment, Mark Pleško pointed out that it could be interesting to uncover “why people’s talents are not recognized by their peers and superiors”.

Published in partnership with IEDC Bled Business School