Our Talent Grid


Successful leaders are scarce

Recognizing a leader (especially a future leader) is no easy task. What characteristics really make a leader successful? What makes them different from others? Looking for a talented leader is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Successful leaders are scarce. So it’s not surprising that this is one of the most important research topics in the literature on management.

Based on our many years of practical experience and research among HRM directors and management development managers at large companies, we therefore developed the Talent Grid (published in ‘De Gids voor Personeelsmanagement’, Met de Talent Grid naar de top, Rainier Beelen & Niels Willemsen, 2009, no. 5). This accessible and simple model enables us to ‘speak the same language’ about the complex issue of management qualities. The model can be used by professionals and managers alike for the selection, assessment and development of talent. The Talent Grid makes it clear which competences are important for successful leadership in organizations.

Our research shows that a good leader needs to combine two dimensions: The ability to set and achieve goals based on their own vision, combined with the skill to guide the achievement of those goals with social intelligence. A good leader therefore needs to be a ‘challenger’ and ‘organizationally sensitive’.

If these two dimensions cross and form a coordinate system, that makes a grid with four different behaviour typologies.

All four ideal types (facilitator, innovator, asset and competitor) are valuable in their own way, but our research shows that the ‘innovator’ is the truly successful leader. These are statistically in the minority. The Talent Grid therefore combines two dimensions that are not often seen in the same person.

People who are natural ‘challengers’ and set challenges for those around them do not necessarily score high in the ability to be sensitive to others. And people who have a real feel for interpersonal relations and are good at acting on them are generally not dominant people who want to be in control.

“All four ideal types are valuable in their own way, but our research shows that the “innovator”is the truly succesful leader.”

That makes recognizing an innovator important. It’s also useful to be familiar with the other three types from the Talent Grid. Each type has its own qualities that affect to what extent a person is fit for task, the goals to be achieved and the specific organization.