Blog Post

Why are some individuals more talented than others?

Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The question of talent or the desire to develop talent has been a central and enduring quest for scholars in many disciplines and this dilemma is probably more critical in Human Resource Development (HRD). According to Patricia McLagan, HRD is “the integrated use of training and development, organization development, and career development to improve individual and organization effectiveness.”

What set HRD scholars apart in answering the underlying question of talent or talent development is their profound understanding of individuals and organizations. Researchers have devoted tremendous efforts in attempts to answer the fundamental question of why some organizations are more talented than others. Much of the research is focused on organizations and less on individuals. My goal in this article is to explain how and why some individuals are more talented than others.

To achieve my goal, I analyzed and synthesized Strategic HRD literature, including text books and journal articles. As a result, I identified five features associated with talented individuals. These characteristics, among other factors, affirm that individuals and a priori organizations develop their talent best when adopting the following attributes:

Self-discipline: People tend to vary in the general degree to which they have self-discipline. Talented individuals think of themselves as being able to manage time, meet deadlines, and find ways to break down formidable tasks into smaller and manageable pieces. They produce prime results because they are committed to making sure that each and every piece makes it to the finish line – finishing power. While others go without paying careful attention to their time and do not see themselves as having the means and resources to solve problems.

Strategic Thinking: Talented individuals are focused on the long-view. They visualize the future and strive to shape and make the most out of it. They do so by seeking to develop capabilities that will take them from their current position towards a desired position. Talented individuals are not likely to wait for employers to provide them with ideas and opportunities for development. They are more likely to pursue personal and professional development initiatives themselves.


Feedback Orientation: Talented individuals care deeply about making improvements in their lives and so they seek input not only from their supervisors, but also from team members, colleagues, and friends. While most people receive feedback, they never act on it; talented individuals treat feedback as an opportunity.

People Orientation: Talented individuals have the ability to establish personal and professional relations with people from different backgrounds, cultures, nationalities, and religions. They try to make people feel important by listening to them. They attempt to learn about the customs, beliefs, and traditions of others. People orientation contributes significantly to individual ability to connect and network with professionals not only in the immediate environment, but also outside, far and wide.

Orientation to Change: Talented individuals embrace change. They understand the importance of disagreement and so they lead by example, suspend judgement, and respect the ideas of others. Talented individuals are willing to go to hard places and work on solving hard problems. Not matter in how much uncertain and ambiguous situations they are in, they believe they have both the will and the way to change everything for better.

Having these attributes enable individuals to perform at a much higher rate than the average person. In fact, a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review reported that higher performers exude 400 percent more productivity than the average employee.

Considering the stated attributes, I define a talented individual as someone who demonstrates self-discipline in both personal and professional life, respects his/ her time and the time of others, takes initiatives for professional growth, seeks inputs for making improvement, learns from mistakes, establishes relations with people from all walks of life, and embraces change.

Lastly, if organizations are seeking innovative ways to remain relevant, distinct, and unique, so can individuals.

About the Author

Sami Jabarkhail is a Fulbright scholar and a Young Atlanticist NATO Working Group Member. He is currently a graduate student in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University. Sami’s research focuses on national human resource development. Using HRD’ performance paradigm as well as learning paradigm, Sami looks at learning and development in multiple contexts: individual, group, organization, community, and society.  Follow him on twitter @SamiJabarkhail

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