Six Traits That Define High Potential Personalities

The high potential personality isn't always defined by high intelligence. In fact, these personalities are known for their curiosity, talent, and ability to innovate. They do this by being conscientious, courageous, and competitive.
Six Traits That Define High Potential Personalities
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 02 May, 2022

If you ask someone what’s meant by high potential personalities, they’ll most likely say high intelligence. That’s because we still tend to associate talent with high intellectual skills. However, true human potential doesn’t always involve a high IQ. As was evidenced by the brilliant Stephen Hawking.

A brilliant personality is one who dares to transform reality by going beyond the conventional. Having potential means seeing what others don’t see and inspiring them to follow. Being exceptional means taking advantage of difficulties and setting innovative goals on the horizon that no one has set before.

As a matter of fact, we could define this personality trait in many ways. However, quite a few figures have already done it for us. So much so that several companies have begun to use the Myers-Briggs typological inventory, based on Carl Jung’s theories, to identify certain high-potential personality traits.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

-Benjamin Franklin-


A woman on a bridge.

High potential personalities

Society needs more than just smart people. We value the presence of people who know how to put their wits to good use, whatever their intelligence. Because sometimes, talent resides in the mental flexibility of someone who knows how to find the best answer when it’s most needed. Also, those who know how to use their skills in order to create happy and motivated workgroups that share the same goal.

As a matter of fact, leadership is being redefined, as is the concept of the high potential personality. Indeed, it wasn’t long ago that we associated this concept with managerial quality. We connected it with those who produced the most, were the most outgoing, and achieved better results in an organization.

Today many of these dimensions have been reformulated. Because the qualities we now need in a leader are dynamism, humanity, connection, efficiency, and the ability to innovate.

Doctors, Ian MacRae and Adrian Furnham from University College London conducted a study to define the factors that define the high potential personality. These proved to be interesting qualities that we’re all capable of developing.

1. Conscientiousness, the value of self-discipline

Whoever achieves success doesn’t do it by chance. In fact, behind their triumph lies discipline, self-control, and a taste for hard work. Achieving this competence requires the mastering of impulsiveness and the use of strategic planning. These people like to see a job well done.

They’re not obsessed with perfection, but with the kind of self-demand that makes them always give their best.

Conscientiousness equals better decisions. That’s because they’re always taken in a reasonable way with a refined kind of intuition that leaves nothing to chance

2. Emotional adjustment

We all know the importance of regulating our emotions, as well as the proper use of them. Emotional adjustment in the high potential personality is key. That’s because it involves the ability to control the daily stress and anxiety that tends to form an integral part of life, work, and human relationships.

High potential personalities are adept at operating in any environment. They’re calm, improve the work environment, and are good at working in teams.

They don’t only know how to regulate their worries, anxieties, and negativity. They also make it easier for others in their environment to adjust to this kind of emotional harmony.

3. Accepting uncertainty and ambiguity

One thing the high-potential personality is clear about is that things are never going to be the way they want. Indeed, o rganizations and the world as a whole are almost always chaotic environments. Therefore, difficulties often appear and, along with them, uncertainty.

High potential personalities don’t mind in the least that unforeseen events arise. That’s because they’re prepared for them. Indeed, their proactive minds accept difficulties in advance. Hence, they’re motivated to deal with them.

Instead of getting stuck with what they can’t change, they don’t hesitate in being creative. In fact, they’ll find a thousand proposals and possibilities as answers to their problems.

4. The curiosity to know and discover new paths

What would we be, as humans, without curiosity? However, this tool of life and our human potential is losing momentum over the years. As a matter of fact, education itself, routine, and even highly rigid work environments can completely diminish this ability.

Nevertheless, high potential personalities endorse this virtue. In fact, they use their curiosity to learn, discover, and apply new approaches.

An image of men and women working together, signifying high potential personalities.

5. Courage

Courage allows us to make our way when times get tough. In fact, courage is what helps us go beyond the established to give way to the new, in order to improve our reality.

Therefore, high potential personalities are distinguished by not being afraid to confront things. They face risks with poise because they trust in their own abilities.

6. Competitiveness in order to improve

Competitiveness can sometimes create friction and even conflicts in an organization. However, in these cases, high potential personalities make use of a competitive mindset to improve and overcome obstacles. Furthermore, they don’t hesitate in uniting their teams to make them more competitive. This helps the organizations they work for move forward and place themselves in good positions in the market.

Finally, we must mention that high potential personalities are trustworthy. They’re skilled figures when it comes to getting the best out of others to work with them in the same direction. As a matter of fact, they make every scenario blossom in innovation, progress, and resilience.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Furnham, Adrian & Treglown, Luke. (2018). High potential personality and intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences. 128. 81-87. 10.1016/j.paid.2018.02.025.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.