02 November 2011

Talent and Skill

At the outset of my discussion of the leadership and management traits I outlined in my previous post, I want to make it clear how important it is to understand that neither leadership nor management alone is enough.  I've discovered that highly effective people develop both.


Talent:  Everyone is talented at something.  Some people can play the piano, some can sing, I can do neither.  These are not my talents, but I have found what I am good at.  Later, when we get to an explanation of "Discovered" in the leadership trait list, I'll show you one way I discovered my own leadership ability.  I'll give you a hint right now: it's based on finding out what I'm good at (what I love) and what I'm not good at (what I loathe).

Skill:  While talent is finding what you're innately good at, skill can be described as finding what you can improve.  I believe the most important first step in skill development is to seek advice; a great place to start is Don Campia's book, "Taking Advice" (2006 Harvard Business School Press, Boston).  Admitting my shortcomings and seeking out the help of experts is a key step I use toward improvement.  Following their recent World Series win, no one would doubt St. Louis Cardinal first-baseman Albert Pujols' hitting talent, but here's what he says about it:

"I'm a really smart player. If you tell me something, I get it quickly. If there is something wrong with my hitting, tell me what's wrong and I'll pick it up right away. That's the best thing I have going for me, my ability to listen to a coach and fix what I'm doing wrong."

I've discovered that a common trait of people who get things done is their ability to admit their shortcomings and seek help to fix these things. 

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