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Potential: What Is It?

January 21, 2011 — Leave a comment

 

From a very young age, we all want to be considered as having potential, however potential is often an overused and ambiguous word. Potential… for what? It doesn’t mean a lot by itself, so what do we mean by potential? What is it? What does it look like?  How do we define it and make it more measurable and tangible? What is potential, really? Is it a possibility…a proposed capability for becoming something more? But what?  How does a leader reach their potential if it cannot clearly be defined? Can we ever really grasp our potential? If we do and we reach it… what then?

In some ways potential is a limiting descriptor because there is really no way of knowing if we have reached our potential. Most of us know of The Peter Principle… does our potential equate only to rising to our own level of incompetence? Personally, I hope not!

Potential is a complex concept and there is little agreement about what it actually means, so we need to start by breaking it down into some key components that are generally expected of people considered to have potential:

  • Performance: the consistent capability to exceed expectations in regards to the accomplishment of specific tasks measured against preset standards of accuracy, completeness, cost, and speed.
  • Emotional Intelligence: the ability, capacity, or skill to identify, assess, and control the emotions of self, others, and groups.
  • Motivation/ Ambition: the inspiration or driving force to succeed.
  • Agility: the cognitive bandwidth to learn from past experiences, seeing things in a broader context and quickly applying observations to new situations – applying life experience, noticing patterns, and deriving general guidelines that can be applied to new situations.

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