Leadership Thought #232 – Talent Without Effort Leads To Unrealized Potential

October 24, 2011

Mike Ditka quote: Effort without talent is a depressing situation... but talent  without...

Talent will only ever get you so far in life. You have to regularly exercise that talent and push yourself to do better.   The moment you start getting too comfortable in your role is the moment you become vulnerable to someone else who wants it more.  As all high performing athletes instinctively know, the difference between success and failure is measured in inches or seconds.  This does not mean that you have to become a workaholic but it does mean you should take nothing for granted.  The landscape of leadership history is littered with talented people who never fully realized their potential or who settled for simply being “good enough.”

Malcolm Gladwell is famous for postulating that you need to put 10,000 hours of focused effort on something to become an expert at it.  In my experience, he is right on the mark.  The most talented leaders I work with never stop learning or being inquisitive.  They are regularly expanding their perspective and seeking out opportunities for growth.  Money and success are only the result of their own personal commitment to excellence and doing meaningful work. They take their leadership responsibility very seriously and do their best to model positive behaviors to everyone they meet.  As one of my Vistage colleagues is fond of saying they intuitively understand that “…how they do anything is how they will do everything.”

I encourage you to step back, reflect, and ask yourself where you are falling short in terms of effort and practice.

  • What skills do you need to further refine?
  • Do you still have the same edge you possessed when you got started?
  • Are you actually modeling the behaviors you want to see in others or are you simply waxing poetic on how they should behave?
  • Are you focused on doing the right things or simply obsessed with doing things right?
  • Do you approach each day with the mindset that your work (and life) has meaning or are you simply biding your time and getting through the day?
  • Are you continually practicing to get better at your job or content to enjoy the fruits of position and success and let others do all the hard work?

You are either getting better and moving forward or stagnating and falling behind!  Wasted talent IS a tragedy.