Top leaders as talent architects
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Top leaders as talent architects

Innovative approach requires seeing people not just as high performers in their current roles

As relentless disruption and innovation reshape the business landscape, will you merely admire the remnants of your organisation as a reflection of your life’s work, or will you step forward as the architect of its future talent destiny?

Like many leaders, I am approaching a transition in my organisation — and not for the first time. Simultaneously, I have been talking a lot about talent with other leaders lately and trying to emphasise the importance of talent and how it is an increasingly important but constantly changing factor. In these conversations, I keep hearing variations on the following:

“We keep chasing after the same “high potential” year after year without ever evaluating if they are the right fit for the future direction.”

“We spend so much time and money on developing skills for roles that might not even exist in a few years.”

Here are a few insights I would like to share:

Starting a reframe: Your organisation is a grand masterpiece, an intricate tapestry or machine that evolves and changes to meet prevailing business needs. It is not a constant thing. No matter how much we rely on culture, ways of working or certain people, it changes. But it is a picture woven from the talents and capabilities of your workforce.

This means that in today’s ever-shifting business landscape, the canvas is continuously evolving and demanding an innovative approach to talent management — one that views your people as more than just high performers in their current roles.

Let’s be honest: For years, most organisations and leaders have narrowly defined talent as people who excel at their existing responsibilities. We have spent fortunes and made heroic efforts focused on retaining these individuals through compensation and job enrichment. Performance management systems have evaluated employees based on historical achievements and competencies tied to their current roles.

But can you hear the creaking sounds of an antiquated model straining under the weight of disruptive innovations, cutthroat competition, innovations like AI, and ever-shifting strategies? Going forward relying on past performance and definitions of talent is the best way to organisational obsolescence.

I believe it is time to reframe how we perceive, prioritise and cultivate talent — not as a static entity but as a dynamic group capable of propelling our organisation toward its strategic objectives. But rather than seeing this talent as a blueprint or a one-size-fits-all tool for any situation, I believe we now need to take time to see each as more unique puzzle piece, with their innate strengths, skills and experiences.

There are certainly some essentials like being more curious, persistent and adaptable — qualities that cannot be simply developed but must be accurately identified and nurtured. It is essential to take the time because these talents are the catalysts capable of repeatedly driving successful organisational change initiatives.

Great, so HR now knows what to do? As an organisational leader, your role is talent architect. You must thoughtfully position these diverse puzzle pieces within the bigger picture, ensuring they fit together seamlessly while leaving room for growth and evolution. You must consider the interplay, identifying complementary traits and potential areas of friction.

First, think about the future! Because this is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. Your talent strategy must be contextualised to the specific future capabilities required to achieve your organisation’s strategic objectives over the next one or two years.

Whether it is expanding into new markets, launching innovative products, or implementing innovative technologies, you need the correct talent shapes to bring that vision to life. This requires differentiating talent not just by performance but by evaluating their potential for outstanding future contributions.

Look beyond current role mastery to innovation potential, change leadership, and learning orientation. Map these talent needs — the I-Shapes, PI-Shapes, and Specialists — to the pivotal roles and capabilities necessary for realising your strategic goals.

With this comprehensive view, you can establish clear career paths for different talent tiers, enabling progression from high performers to leadership and expert roles. This aspirational not only nurtures your existing talent pipeline but serves as a powerful magnet for attracting new puzzle pieces to join your masterpiece.

So, how do you make this work?

Commit to the process: Talent management is an ongoing journey, a continuum that spans the entire employee lifecycle. As the canvas evolves, you must continuously rebuild and refine your organisational puzzle, proactively identifying and integrating new pieces while fostering an environment where diverse perspectives coalesce into a cohesive, high-performing team.

Commit to the shift: This demands a cultural shift — one that encourages continuous learning, innovation, and psychological safety. Provide feedback “mirrors” and coaching to raise self-awareness among your talent pools, motivating them to stretch their capabilities. Tailor development approaches each individual’s unique talents, roles, and growth areas, abandoning the one-size-fits-all mentality.

Align your workforce planning processes: hiring, retraining, retention — to fulfil projected talent needs across various levels. Invest in comprehensive leadership talent pipelines, ensuring a steady supply of puzzle pieces capable of guiding high-performing, adaptable teams.

Educate leaders: You cannot do this by yourself. HR cannot do it for you. Most crucially, execute strategic change management to educate leaders and employees on this new talent philosophy, adjusting the traditional mindsets that have long equated talent solely with current performance.

Accept you will need to do this repeatedly: As change continues to reshape the business landscape, the demand for top talent will only intensify. Those who fail to prioritise talent management and succession planning will find themselves adrift, their masterpieces incomplete and ill-equipped to navigate the churning currents.

I believe senior leaders need to embrace their role as talent architects, carefully curating and aligning their workforce’s diverse talents with your organisation’s future strategic objectives. We must quickly redefine how we perceive and prioritise talent, moving beyond narrow performance metrics to identify and nurture the innate qualities that will propel our organisation toward innovation and success.

The blueprint lies within our grasp — so seize the opportunity to craft a talent strategy that will withstand disruption and emerge as an important resource for transformation.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer, Managing Director and Founder at SEAC - Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Centre. She is fascinated by the challenge of transforming education for all to create better prospects for Thais and people everywhere. Reach her email at or

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