Creative Leadership

Why Some Leaders are Gifted, But Don’t Reach Their Potential

One of my greatest challenges coaching leaders is their own talent. Don’t get me wrong – talent is great.  But in many cases, a talented leader is already pretty successful, is surrounded by a team (or congregation) who acknowledges that talent, and as a result, he or she tends to live in a bit of a bubble.

The problem is – his natural gifts are keeping him from learning, listening to others, or working harder. Based on my experience working with a wide range of leaders, I can see the level he or she is capable of achieving. But it’s their talent that often keeps leaders from seeing the same possibilities.

That’s why leaders who struggle are often easier to work with. They know they need help and are willing to listen and work at it. So if you’re a gifted leader (I’ll leave that up to you to decide), then here’s my recommendations:

1) No matter how talented you are, there’s room to grow.   Everyone has potential that hasn’t been fulfilled, so it’s never time to stop learning and growing.

2) Stop believing your own press.   I advise you keep any praise from employees in perspective. They may honestly think you’re gifted, but anyone getting a paycheck from you has other motives as well. Make sure you’re also listening to people who have no vested interest in sucking up.

3) Trust your advisors.   Often leaders (especially pastors) start out spending years in the trenches doing it all themselves. Even when they develop their first leadership team, they usually can’t afford good people, so he or she gets used to micromanaging and not taking advice from others. But as you grow, you simply have to break that habit. The higher you reach, the more advice you need from others who are more experienced. You can’t be an expert on everything, so stop micromanaging your advertising, human resources department, media, or whatever you have your fingers into.

Your natural gifts and talents are wonderful. But don’t let them blind you to the fact that you’ll never arrive at perfection. Keep growing, keep learning, and most of all – keep listening.

Have you seen this situation with talented leaders?  How have you overcome the challenge?

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2 Comments

  1. Whether it be office employees or actors for a film, I make a point to hire people who are both naturally talented AND hard workers. In fact if necessary I will bypass the former. – Hard workers will always beat lazy talented people.

  2. Agreed. It seems like many leaders get here at some point. I think because one of the reasons leaders start leading is because they’ve been able to identify their gift and talent. Especially in churches, to grow beyond a certain point, they have to either become empires – where every gift and talent has to align beneath the main leader or they have to cultivate momentum through a growing diversity of powerful leaders who are all celebrated for the uniqueness they add to the culture while maintaining the core set of common values that all team members are capable of replicating.

    The former, empire approach can work, but it all falls on the main leader’s charisma and creates a large revolving door of staff, in that, as powerful people find their uniqueness, they move on to where they can develop it. The only staff that stays long-term are the faithful servant types who aren’t able to challenge the organizational constraints that are hindering forward momentum.

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