The 6 Stumbling Blocks Of The Super-Talented

Smart and creative individuals can be a valuable asset to a company, but their talent can also stand in the way of their career success.

The 6 Stumbling Blocks Of The Super-Talented
[Image: Flickr user Ancella Simoes]

Being a superstar in your field may help you land lucrative opportunities, but there are underlying risk factors to being talented that could derail career potential. Patti Johnson, CEO of PeopleResults and former senior executive at Accenture is an executive coach and adviser, and says there are many areas where the super-talented may struggle.


The super-talented have an inability to see where they lack skills.

“The super-talented aren’t always super-talented at everything,” says Johnson. The problem is, they may not see it that way. Since these individuals have often been given an extraordinary amount of recognition and have experienced a lot of success, it can be difficult for them to recognize areas of fault or potential improvement.

They have high expectations of reward.

Since they’re used to receiving a great deal of praise, super-talented individuals can present a challenge to HR managers. Johnson says a simple salary increase may not be enough to satisfy their needs. Instead, she encourages managers to ensure exceptionaly talented individuals are connected to the bigger purpose of the organization and offer rewards that speak to their specific interests in order to ensure their commitment.

It can be difficult for them to ask for help.

Fear of failure can cause the uber-talented to shy away from exposing vulnerability and accepting that they don’t have all the answers. Difficulty accepting the idea that there’s room for improvement means super-talented individuals can become narrow-minded in their career approach and may turn away from new opportunities, causing them to become stuck in their careers. “They’ve developed such self-reliance and they’ve had such success with what they’ve done, it’s difficult to show that vulnerability and say I need help,” says Johnson.

They can be poor communicators.

The super-talented don’t always recognize that what comes easy for them doesn’t come easily for everyone else. “Showing up [to a meeting] and saying ‘good news, I have all the answers’ is the quickest way to alienate yourself from the rest of the team,” says Johnson. Super-talented individuals can be unwilling to view others’ points of view because they think they know what’s best. This confidence can come across as arrogant to others and create tensions in the workplace.

Extremely smart people have high expectations of others.

When you think of the most talented leaders, Steve Jobs is likely to come to mind. “Talk about high expectations!” says Johnson. Although Jobs’s high standards resulted in extraordinary success for Apple, Johnson has seen other companies fail because followers couldn’t keep up to the high expectations of their leaders. “When their success depends more on their ability to lead others than their knowledge in a particular area, [the super-talented can fail],” says Johnson. These individuals are often used to relying on themselves and their own expertise and can make terrible leaders if they continue to turn inward rather than delegating to others and expecting followers to keep up with their incredible pace. “You sometimes have to slow down in order to bring other people along with you,” says Johnson.

They can become easily bored.

Johnson has seen organizations lose their most talented individuals as a result of bureaucratic HR processes. “If you’ve got super-talented people on your team, you’ve got to get creative on their assignments, making sure you’re stretching them so they don’t get bored,” says Johnson. Johnson advises creative and intellengent individuals to carefully examine the working environment they’re in to ensure it’s one they will be able to thrive in. “Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what he did if he had been inside a very rigid corporate hierarchy,” she says. An organization that treats super-talented individuals as just another cog in the wheel is likely to hinder their talent rather than foster it.

About the author

Lisa Evans is a freelance writer from Toronto who covers topics related to mental and physical health. She strives to help readers make small changes to their daily habits that have a profound and lasting impact on their productivity and overall job satisfaction.