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How leaders identify, nurture and develop talents

This step looks at the role of the leader in managing talents and developing their followers in collaborators.

In the previous steps, you learned about leadership development and how leaders can develop themselves as leaders. In this step, you will focus on leaders’ roles in managing talents and developing their followers and collaborators.

Managing talent is widely recognised as key for achieving a competitive edge, organizational sustainability and competitive advantage (Thunnissen and Gallardo-Gallardo, 2017). It is therefore essential for managers to understand the importance of identifying, nurturing and developing talents.

How do we best identify, nurture and develop talents?

Chamorro-Premuzic and Kirschner (2020) suggest seven steps to do so:

  1. Think ahead,
  2. Focus on the right traits,
  3. Don’t go outside when you can stay inside,
  4. Think inclusively,
  5. Be data driven,
  6. Think plural rather than singular,
  7. Make people better.

The following table highlights the key aspect of each step.

Step Description
1. Think ahead Develop a five-year talent strategy and align that strategy to your long-term strategy.
2. Focus on the right traits Focus on soft skills such as emotional intelligence, drive and learnability. They are the foundation that govern new skills and knowledge.
3. Don’t go outside when you can stay inside Seek talent internally before considering external candidates. Internal candidates already know the company inside out and have a better understanding of the organisation.
4. Think inclusively Consider a wide range of talent and seek hires who have a different set of skills compared to you and others already on your team. Organisations with a divers talent pipeline usually have more favourable financial result. Seek those who can challenge the status quo to drive constant change.
5. Be data driven Develop transparent performance goals for new hires. Talent identification should be a continuous process of trial and error.
6. Think plural rather than singular The focus should lie on the configuration of the team rather than on individuals keeping in mind that value is created as a result of joint effort. The spirit should be on the sum being more powerful than its individual parts.
7. Make people better Even the brightest talents need help in growing their skills set. The role of the manager in this requires coaching skills and the capacity to have difficult conversations. Foreseeing the needs of future talents is a critical component in this context.

Table: Identifying and developing talents (Chamorro-Premuzic and Kirschner, 2020)

A talent management system

It is often argued that managing talent requires a system. Below is a checklist for developing a talent management system (Ford, Harding and Stoyanova 2010: 7):

Have you:

Made talent a priority and explained why it is a priority? Demonstrated senior management support?
Recognised the changes taking place in the psychological contract? Created policies and practices to enhance the organisation’s attractiveness to current and potential talented staff?
Made line managers accountable? Created opportunities for self-development and learning?
Provided support to individual development? Ensured realistic job reviews?
Provided challenging and career enhancing work experiences? Redefined the role of the HR managers?
Created a culture and climate that will persuade the right people to stay? Improved your forecasting techniques?
Developed policies to deal with uncertainty of demand for and supply of talent? Considered replacing succession planning with portfolio competencies
This will produce a group of employees who can fit into a range of different jobs. Considered how to calculate the return on investment of talent management?
Balanced employer and employee interests so as to nurture long-term commitment and preserve the investment in developing talent? Linked macro- and micro, i.e. ensured the needs of individuals and the needs of the organisation are considered at the same time and are made mutually beneficial?
Built a talent-enabling organisational culture?  

Reflect and reply

Please reflect upon the key question below and respond using the comments section below.

Considering the current situation of your organisation or team, what are the most important steps that you can use to identify, nurture and develop talents?


Thunnissen, M. and Gallardo-Gallardo, E. (2017) Talent Management in Practice : An Integrated and Dynamic Approach, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley.

Chamorro-Premuzic, T. and Kirschner, J. (2020) How the Best Managers Identify and Develop Talent.

Ford, Harding and Stoyanova (2010) Talent Management and Development – An Overview of Current Theory and Practice. Centre for managerial excellence, Bradford University School of Management

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Leadership Skills: How to Nurture and Develop Talent

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