The term talent (Latin: talentum, from Ancient Greek: τάλαντον, talanton ‘scale, balance, sum’) was one of several ancient units of mass dates back to the Ancient Greeks and Biblical times, starting out as measure of weight, then becoming a unit of money, and later meaning a person’s value or natural abilities (Michaels, et al.,, 2001). The talent as a unit of value is mentioned in the New Testament in Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). This parable is the origin of the use of the word “talent” to mean “gift or skill” in English and other languages. (The Hebrew term for “talent” was kikkār, meaning a round gold or silver disk, or disk-shaped loaf).
We sometimes make a reasonable distinction between individuals who have natural abilities in an area (who some might called gifted) and those who have learned their skills and knowledge. Of course individuals are a mix of both natural abilities and learned skills.
Recently DDI undertook extensive research to investigate two associated questions:
- Do particular degrees translate into developed leadership skills that can be rigorously assessed? Or, to express that a different way, do leader skill profiles vary by educational degree? And,
- What skill advantages do MBA graduates exhibit?
DDI evaluated assessment data from 15,000 leaders across 300 companies and 18 countries and compared the performance of those with undergraduate business degrees and MBA degree-holders against a set of critical leader skills.
Given that MBA programmes commonly give centre stage to the development of financial acumen, becoming business savvy, and establishing strategic direction it came as no surprise to learn that MBA degree-holders did better than undergraduate business graduates. However, MBAs performed worse than undergraduate degree-holders in coaching and developing others, driving for results, and selling the vision. DDI’s conclusion was that while an MBA programme “can strengthen many important leadership skills, it won’t necessarily produce strength in all of the skills leaders need to be successful”.
Thankfully, the skills where business degree-holders weren’t strong—compelling communication, driving for results, and inspiring excellence—are all closely aligned with the highly develop-able interaction skills imparted by leadership development programmes, such as those created by √itas Consult.
Michaels, E., Handfield-Jones, H. & Axelrod, B. (2001). The War for Talent. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.