How do Highly Effective Leaders Compensate for Variations in Talent

March 18, 2015

By Curtis R. Sprouse

Social and business acumen are a key principle of leadership. Refinements to these learned dynamics of leadership are the difference between ineffectual leaders, inconsistent leaders, good leaders, and great leaders.

Talent aside, refinement and mastery of goodwill and social skills (the foundation of social acumen), and compromise and accommodation (the foundation of business acumen) can be the game changer at the individual and organizational level.

In our practice we have found that highly effective leaders possess a consistent approach to the use of their talent. They are able to get their teams to operate at highly effective levels with only slight variations in the quality of performance and consistency of effort. This is no new revelation, but what is interesting and perhaps critical is how one defines and measures personal and team readiness, likelihood, and ability to improve against these themes.

Focusing on an individual’s development efforts is not easy and has limited impact unless the organizations measure each person relative to these themes. Many efforts look at directions indicators. Extrovert vs introvert, stubborn vs laid back, and so on. It is critical that organizations measure the strength and weakness of each behavior and correlate the relationship of key behaviors to each other in a way that the individual can use the information.

When a person is able to establish a bond with others they are able to gain insight and perspective at the personal level that will prove valuable in shaping their view of the larger picture, defined in numeric terms as people possessing social skills scores of 45% to 70% (100 point scale). This is not a one way street. It is also valuable for the person to extend themselves, and to reveal information that helps others gain comfort and confidence in the relationship. The bond is strengthened by genuine care and compassion (goodwill scores in the 40% to 65% range.) This can be defined as recognition, understanding, and appreciation for what others hold to be important.When a person can align some element of others’ value systems with their own, a stronger bond and understanding is established.

When people score below the effective range for both social skills and goodwill, they struggle to build trust. They tend to present as more transactional and as the score drops, they can be perceived as self-serving and someone with whom it is difficult to work. High scores can be equally damaging as high social scores will drive inefficient overly interactive behavior that can be seen as too casual. High goodwill will drive overly emotional, altruistic, and even volatile unreasonable behavior.

Great leaders are able to connect at an effective level. When the connection is combined with intellect and talent, the individual has mastered the concept of social acumen. Even without excessive talent, however, the ability to connect can be an equalizer. Highly effective leaders are able to inspire others to address areas that they may find to be challenging at a personal or organizational level. The bond they form establishes loyalty, motivation, and a mutual trust and reliance that often drives perseverance in the face of adversity.

Having a team that is committed, capable, and driven is an important and essential requirement of success but without strong objectives that are well planned and positioned to adapt to unavoidable and likely challenges, even the great teams will fail, hence the importance of business acumen.

Being open minded, possessing a balanced ability to compromise (scores ranging between the 40% and 70%) at the onset of a discussion and/or analysis and the ability to move in new directions based on information grounded in reality, are the principles of accommodation (scores between the 30% and 60%.) When individuals are able to balance compromise and accommodation, they are able to explore alternatives in a positive and productive way. It goes without saying that this assumes well developed social acumen—the ability to connect and read the unsaid feedback being provided by each party to the conversation.

When well-developed social and business acumen are combined, the individual develops intuition—the ability to meld the obvious with the not so obvious. They are able to understand the human element in conjunction with the business objective and gain the ability to see reality and make decisions, provide guidance, and lead with relevance and consistency.

Note: Scores and profiles referenced in this article refer to characteristics defined in the EurekaConnect Behavioral Dynamics program

About the author: Curtis R. Sprouse is the President and CEO of EurekaConnect, LLC. Curtis has spent over 25 years building companies and consulting for hundreds of the fortune 500 companies. EurekaConnect, LLC uses proven technologies and data driven solutions that objectively and measurably improve organizational performance. For more information please