Han Solo, the charming, skeptic, politically incorrect smuggler from the Star Wars saga, was no Jedi and had no formal military training. His first appearance was as a pilot who agreed to smuggle Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi out of Tatooine in exchange for good money. Initially interested only in getting paid, Solo gradually became involved in the most significant undertaking of his life—in fact, the most significant undertaking in the galaxy—joining the Rebel Alliance to overthrow the evil Galactic Empire. In so doing, he underwent an amazing journey of self-assessment and self-transformation that became one of the main focal points of the movie series.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Boba Fett, a bounty hunter who devoted his life to making deals with the Empire. Boba Fett proved to be instrumental in weakening the Rebel Alliance in The Empire Strikes Back by hunting down Han Solo and delivering him to Jabba the Hutt. Later, in The Return of the Jedi, he took part in what seemed to be the inevitable execution of Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. In this manner, Boba Fett followed the footsteps of his predecessor, Jango Fett, perpetuating a legacy of dirty work for the Dark Side of the Force.
Why did Solo and Fett follow different paths?
In a polarized universe defined by the standoff between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, those who had neither fully surrendered to the former nor formally joined the latter had to look for alternative means to make a living. In so doing, they developed an array of useful talents that made them potentially valuable to either side.
Han Solo, for instance, was a businessman stifled by the arbitrary, corrupt, restrictive trade regulations imposed by the Empire, which made legal trade virtually impossible for anyone who did not became a formal supporter of the Emperor. This led him to become a smuggler and, with time, a thriving participant in the informal economy. Boba Fett, on the other hand, was a successful bounty hunter who made a living working closely with Darth Vader and assisting the Empire in carrying out some of its most repressive, corrupt and wicked endeavors.
As it happened, they each ended up joining the side that better fit their identity, purpose, principles and character—that is, their personalities.
Talent vs. Personality: The Rise of Competency
The comparison between Han Solo and Boba Fett is just a metaphor to highlight the fact that an individual’s personality may actually have more influence on their choices and long-term performance than their talents. As the Japanese proverb goes, “discipline will sooner or later defeat intelligence.” Discipline is, or course, a personality trait; and intelligence is, of course, a talent
When companies set out to attract, select and hire new employees, HR professionals use different terms to describe the process, including talent recruiting, talent acquisition, talent sourcing, etc. They even make semantic distinctions among these terms to signify different levels of strategic impact. However, when a company hires new employees, it is hiring a lot more than their talents. It is, in fact, hiring the whole array of their competencies, which result from the functional combination of their talents and personality traits.
In my book, The Seventh Distinction: The Path to Personal Mastery, Leadership & Peak Performance, I devote a whole chapter to establishing the difference between talent and personality, and to explaining how the combination thereof gives rise to competencies. More specifically, I claim that “competencies, which make us competent and competitive at what we do, result from channeling our talents through the amplifying and targeting effects of our personality. Talents alone lack the launching platform of personality and, therefore, can remain unused, misused, or unimproved for years.”
Furthermore, I have found that by developing talents alone, whatever the individual is will be amplified, not necessarily improved. That is, the individual’s ego will be strengthened. So, if someone has, for instance, some personality issues associated with arrogance that hinder their ability to work on teams, developing their talents alone will likely worsen the situation. In other words, as the individual becomes more talented, he or she will likely become more arrogant. This highlights the need for recruitment programs that include both talent and personality assessments of candidates. Furthermore, it also highlights the need for personal growth initiatives at the workplace. These programs allow for the identification and improvement of personality traits that have widespread, systemic impact on an individual’s professional competencies and job performance.
Going back to the Star Wars metaphor, it was personality, and not talent, that fully distinguished Han Solo from Boba Fett. They were both very skilled at what they did, but it was Solo’s moral compass and sense of justice that made him a great fit for the Rebellion while it was Fett’s lack of morals and willingness to work for the highest bidder that made him a great fit for the Empire. So, as your company goes recruiting for new “talent,” make sure to include formal personality assessment initiatives as part of the process. At the end of the day, it is who we are, and not what we can do, what ultimately defines what we are willing to do and where we are going.
See Also: Why Darth Vader Needed Coaching
What do you think?
What would have happened to the Rebel Alliance if they had recruited Boba Fett? What would have happened to Han Solo if the Empire had tried to recruit him? Is either of the latter questions a feasible scenario? How much of your success do you owe to your talents and how much to your personality? What seems to be easier to improve, talents or personality traits?
Originally published on Forbes.com.