Jennifer and Gianpiero Petriglieri have written a terrific Harvard Business Review article titled, "The Talent Curse." In this essay, they argue that being labeled as a "high potential" or "future leader" can be detrimental to many talented employees. The label changes their behavior and mindset, and as a result, their stress level increases, performance suffers, and attitude toward the organization sours. They explain:
In an age when companies wage wars for talent, it is hard to acknowledge that for some people, being recognized as talented turns out to be a curse. But it does. Aspiring leaders work hard to live up to others’ expectations, and so the qualities that made them special to begin with—those that helped them excel and feel engaged—tend to get buried. They behave more like everyone else, which saps their energy and ambition. They may start simply going through the motions at work—or, like Thomas, look for an escape hatch. This curse strikes the talented even in companies that invest heavily in their development—places where executives are sincerely dedicated to helping people thrive.
What are the signs that being labeled as a star may actually be a curse for you? They cite three symptoms of trouble. First, are you determined to prove that you are worthy of your label as a star, rather than focused on simply using your talents effectively to achieve personal and organizational goals? Do you stress short term performance at the expense of continuing to learn and grow? Second, have you become very focused on your image? Do you want to be your authentic self, but find yourself trying to be someone else? Third, are you going through the motions now, with aspirations of eventually doing meaningful work down the road? Have you convinced yourself that it's okay that you aren't passionate about your work at this point, because you will have a chance to find passion and purpose in the future?
In sum, you have to ask the question: Has the star, high potential, or future leader label fundamentally changed my behavior? If so, you have to take a hard look at your mindset, attitude, and behavior.