Experience vs. Capacity?

January 27, 2020

Experience vs. Capacity?

May 29, 2023

Oprah once suggested we “turn our wounds into wisdom.” But one person’s wound may distill fresh insight while another’s might lead to hardened judgment.

As I interview leadership candidates, I ask myself, “What’s most important here: Experience or Capacity?” The world tends to over-value experience without asking the question, “What did you cultivate and harvest from that experience?”

For me, capacity is more important when I’m looking for a revolution, not an evolution; when I want to make a long-term bet on a rising star (at any age); when I believe that curiosity mixed with experience is going to create a role model for metabolizing wisdom.

Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher adopted this talent philosophy when he groomed his secretary, Colleen Barrett, to become President of Southwest at age 57. With just a two-year degree as a legal secretary, Colleen didn’t have the leadership training or experience. Still, Herb believed she had the capacity to become the first female President of a major airline. During her 7-year tenure as President, she helped grow Southwest into the largest U.S. domestic carrier with the lowest customer complaints.

Iowa faces this “Experience vs. Capacity” question right now when it comes to Presidential candidates. Let’s see what they decide.

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