How to Lead Talents?

Talent can no longer be reduced merely to a list of competencies.


According to Dr. Riitta Lumme-Tuomala,Head og Growth and  Director, Russia, Talent Management at Aalto University Executive Education, leading and spotting talent takes fresh thinking and boldness. 

How to spot talent?

“Talent-spotting is evolving, old-fashioned competence lists soon becoming a thing of the past. You begin by thinking about the requirements for a certain position so far. The same skills don’t necessarily apply in the future, and former skills and experiences don’t guarantee success in some other task. Talent frameworks should in fact be defined in some other way than as a list of competencies.”

How should talent be defined?

“Talent is much about potential and what a person can take onboard. In addition to skills and competencies one needs “situational smartness” – an ability to function in new, changing situations. People must learn how to tap into their existing potential. We need the courage to find recruit curious people, who are motivated by new experiences and throw themselves into new situations. Talented people seek direct feedback, which they use for their advantage and to develop in their work. Experience can be a good thing, but can hinder a person from adapting to what’s new. Former experience can be a barrier for learning.”

Should also succession planning be rethought?

“Often talent management is simply seen as a form of succession planning, becoming reduced to risk management. For today’s organizations, succession planning no longer means only filling a predecessor’s position with the equivalent talent. Succession planning should involve much more than positions and competencies, requiring a vision for the way tasks are set to change.”

Do you believe anyone can learn any skill?

“Naturally, there are different skills and competencies in need also in the future. We all have our strong points: a particular strength we wish to hone. But without the ability and desire to share knowledge and learn, a person is neither a talent of today nor tomorrow.”

Will our perspective on a company’s key positions also expand?

“According to former thinking, key positions were pretty much restricted to the members of the top management team, who are also paid more. This is no longer necessarily the case; key positions should be viewed more broadly. They could for instance be found in the customer interface, if customer experience lies at the heart of the company’s strategy.”

How are high potential employees managed?

“High potential talents are the people who end up leaving, unless managed skillfully. They may be ready to look on at indifferent management for a while until they’ve had enough. According to a recent study, people spotted as high potential appreciate development opportunities and being trusted. This ensues in a number of ways: confidence, autonomy, an opportunity to develop skills, and feedback. These are of course basic needs that are often forgotten.”

Dr. Riitta Lumme-Tuomala is one of the instructors in Aalto EE's Strategic Talent Management program and in various other programs.

Currently reading: Aalto Leaders' Insight: How to Lead Talents?

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