How the talent curse derails new leaders

Business leaders and senior talent are in increasingly short supply these days, although anyone wondering why will find no shortage of explanations.

Some say companies don’t put enough effort into developing leaders, or human capital in general. Others believe that although efforts are being made, the approach is wrong — the traditional route no longer applies and formal training (vs. on-the-job development) doesn’t really work. Yet others attribute leadership shortages to a lack of alignment between talent development and strategic goals, or the presumption that a candidate’s confidence equals competence.

Another explanation, though, is simply that it’s hard being a leader (or “more work,” as President Trump recently put it) and those who are tapped for leadership roles – typically star performers – often struggle greatly when placed on the fast track. In fact, according to a recent article: “The Talent Curse” in this month’s Harvard Business Review, the fast track can sometimes lead to nowhere fast. This is due to the uncertainty and insecurity new leaders typically experience, which, when combined with a continuing need to innovate, creates enormous pressure.

What follows, say authors Jennifer and Gianpiero Petriglieri, is greater conformity (as opposed to innovation) and ultimately burnout. This then leads to less engagement, diminished performance, and, for some, exit from the organization.

But this can be avoided, they add, by learning how to identify and deal with signs of trouble and, if needed, doing the following to break the curse: owning your talent, being yourself, and, most of all, valuing the present.

Is that all it takes to be a good leader, though? It depends on who you listen to, and those interested in other thoughts on this will find no shortage of leadership how-tos. Examples include this one from Fast Company, this one from Entrepreneur, and this one from the World Economic Forum, which shares insights from global leaders. For inspiration, check out Forbes’ list of 100 best leadership quotes.