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7 Examples of Character Over Talent

Character over talent is the principle that the intangible character of your employees is often more important than their measurable talents. As character is difficult to measure this would indicate that human performance often can't be directly measured or numerically predicted with much accuracy. The following are illustrative examples and counterexamples.

Grit vs Knowledge

A salesperson with solid industry and product knowledge who is sensitive to rejection, criticism and minor insults who doesn't close as much revenue as a gritty coworker who doesn't know the industry well but is resilient and determined.

Creativity vs Convergent Thinking

An engineer who does well on measures of convergent thinking such as a math test who is overly conventional and cautious such that they end up lacking creativity in their work. Such an engineer might be surpassed by a peer who got lower grades in school but is far more curious and willing to experiment.

Work-ethic vs Experience

A senior elevator mechanic with superior know-how who doesn't get as much done as a colleague who has less experience but a greater work-ethic.

Drive vs Natural Talent

An athlete with significant natural abilities and physical capacity who lacks the drive to refine their performance to a competitive level.

Personality vs General Intelligence

An individual with an average IQ and compelling personality who thrives as a leader due to their ability to tell stories, inspire and gain supporters. This could be contrasted with a leader an above average IQ who is unable to lead effectively due to some tragic character flaw such as arrogance.

Personal Presence vs Technical Skills

A software developer who ends up leading significant change based on their personal presence where their coding skills may fall short of average.

Intuition vs Design Skills

A designer with an intuitive sense of customer experience who far outperforms peers who know more about design tools and best practices.


Character over talent predicts that character tends to magnify talent such that human performance is difficult to measure or predict. However, it would be incorrect to think that character always beats talent. For example:

A lazy but knowledgeable pilot who is more likely to land a plane safety than an energetic and optimistic passenger who knows nothing about flying.

An athlete who works hard but never reaches the professional level because others have greater inherent talent or physical ability.

An honest and candid business person who is outcompeted by a tricky and nefarious competitor.
Overview: Character Over Talent
Definition (1)
The principle that character strengths can be more important to performance than talent.
Definition (2)
The principle that character strengths tend to magnify talent such that human performance isn't fully measurable.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about talent.
Area Of Expertise
Career Opportunities
Character Building
Cognitive Abilities
Cognitive Traits
Creative Ability
Creative Traits
Creative Works
Data Literacy
Decision Making
Design Thinking
Gaming Skills
Meaningful Work
Personal Presence
Personal Resilience
Problem Solving
Professional Self
Public Speaking
Self Direction
Self Management
Systems Thinking
Visual Design
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