I’m not talking about the McKinsey ‘war on talent’ approach which suggests that talent is restricted to a select group of individuals for whom all companies must fight tooth and nail to be successful.
I’m talking about the latent talent that lies within all of us: our own special gifts, of which even we may be unaware.
Everyone has their own innate talents, and how leaders help reveal and develop those gifts can make the difference between whether those individuals flourish or fail. In The Blind Side, you can see the life-changing impact we can make as leaders when we take the time to open our eyes, take risks and nurture the talent around us.
The Blind Side tells the true story of Memphis businesswoman and mother Leigh Anne Tuohy, who offers a place in her family to homeless teenager Michael Oher, a gentle giant with a troubled upbringing.
Over time, Leigh Anne, her family and Michael’s school teachers are able to unlock his natural gifts, sending him to college on a football scholarship and, in time, to a career in professional football.
But the path isn’t easy. It takes a number of people to invest in Michael to give him the chance to succeed:
- Coach Cotton is the first to see Michael’s sporting potential, but has to fight to get Michael accepted into his high school due to his low test scores.
- Leigh Anne and her husband Sean give Michael a place to stay, clothes, stability and, eventually, a family to call his own.
- While most of Michael’s teachers despair at his lack of academic application, English teacher Mrs Boswell takes enough interest to look beneath the surface. She finds a boy who may be lost, but is not unintelligent.
- Leigh Anne’s son, SJ, takes Michael under his wing to explain the intricacies of football and supervise his fitness training.
- Leigh Anne recognises Michael’s particular quality for ‘protective instincts’ and helps him apply them to his football. While Michael’s size makes him a natural for football, his gentle nature makes him reluctant to hurt others. In a classic scene, Leigh Anne marches onto the practice pitch and tells him to think of his quarterback and fellow team mates as his family: his job is to protect them. The turnaround in his performance is sudden and dramatic.
- While becoming a force on the football field, Michael struggles to achieve the grades that will allow him to get to college. His new tutor, Miss Sue, teaches him to adopt a growth mindset, giving him faith that he can improve his grades with patient application. ‘ I don’t understand it,’ he tells her. ‘You don’t understand it yet‘, she corrects him.
- With steady improvement, Michael’s college place rests on him passing his literature class by writing about a book or poem that inspires him. Leigh Anne’s husband Sean pitches in by explaining Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade using football terms, helping Michael understand the meaning and tragic poignancy of the poem – and giving him the inspiration to write about it.
We may not meet many people with the potential to be American football stars. But we can each help identify and nurture the talents of others, and help them to be the best they possibly can be.