The definition of potential is: “Having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.” If Robin Hood sits in the tree, drawing his bow, the potential of the arrow is effecting nothing. It will continue to be ineffective until Robin releases the bow, and the arrow effectuates and actualises. With the displacement that Robin has applied to the bow—along with his years of experience—he will be able to direct the arrow in order to hit his target. Potential is the possibility of one thing becoming, doing, or effecting something else. Consider Aristotle’s distinction between potentiality (dunamis) and actuality (energeia) in “Metaphysics.”
Dunamis is the power that a thing has to produce change. A thing has a dunamis when it has within it a source of change in something else—the exercise of which is known as kinesis (think of Carrie and tele-kinesis; the moving of an object with the power of her mind). Aristotle gives the example of a piece of wood. The wood has the potential to become a bowl, or it could become a table. It is up to the carpenter’s discretion to form the wood into either a table or a bowl.
Of course, a carpenter can see the potential the wood has of becoming something more purposeful, and won’t let it simply sit there to rot. Let’s say he decides to fashion it into a bowl. The bowl is still the same piece of wood it was before the carpenter carved it, but now it serves a higher function; it has been shaped. The purpose of these examples is this: potential doesn’t mean anything. That is the paradox of the high-potential — while they may be a company’s greatest asset, their productivity may not be actualising. It is imperative that a leader identify, assess, and develop high potential employees. A leader must apply work (force, displacement, like Robin Hood’s bow) and see potential in an unrefined employee to cast them as a high-performer.