Difference Between Potential and Performance

Key Difference – Potential vs Performance

Potential and performance are two words that often go together although there is a key difference between these two words. Potential refers to the capabilities of an individual that can be developed. On the other hand, performance refers to completing various tasks that have been assigned to the individual. In the working environment, employees who have high potential are able to perform at a higher level than other employees. But does the same rule apply to high performers as well? It is in this context that the key difference between potential and performance emerge. In most situations, although high potential guarantees high performance, high performance does not guarantee high potential. This article aims at elaborating this difference further.

What is Potential?

Potential refers to the capabilities or various capacities that an individual has. This can be considered as a raw version that requires a lot of practice so that it can be developed. People can have various potentials. For instance, some people have a potential to be great leaders while others have a potential to be great writers. However, these abilities that the individual has should first be identified and nurtured.

In organizations, employers and managers need to be vigilant to identify the various abilities that people have in order to assist their professional growth. It is when such potential is ignored that it often goes to waste. People with potential have the ability to perform well. However, they also wish to improve their position in the organization as they have a lot of talent in them.

Difference Between Potential and Performance

What is Performance?

Performance refers to the process of completing tasks. In order to be successful in an endeavor, it is important to perform well so that the final goal can be achieved. In organizations, there are those who perform very well and those who perform below the expected level. Of these two categories, high performers are extremely important for an organization as they make the largest contribution towards the success of the organization.

However, it must be highlighted that not all high performers have high potential. Employers have to comprehend this difference between performance and potential when dealing with employees. High performers can also be promoted where they are given a broader set of tasks since high performers are always reliable. As you can observe, potential and performance are two completely different terms that should not be confused. This difference can be summarized as follows.

Key Difference - Potential vs Performance

What is the difference between Potential and Performance?

Definitions of Potential and Performance:

Potential: Potential refers to the qualities that can be developed.

Performance: Performance refers carrying out or completing a task.

Characteristics of Potential and Performance:


Potential: Potential can be used as an adjective or a noun.

Performance: Performance is used as a noun.


Potential: High potential in employees guarantees high performance.

Performance: High performance in employees does not always guarantee high potential.

Higher Positions:

Potential: Employees with high potential can be easily promoted for higher positions as they have the necessary skill set which will become polished as they are exposed to the new setting.

Performance: High performance in a particular position does not necessarily guarantee the same level of performance in a higher position as the individual may lack the potential.

Alternative Meaning:

Potential: The word potential does not carry an alternative meaning.

Performance: Performance refers to presenting an entertainment item to an audience.


Image Courtesy:

1. “US Navy 020614-N-0552D-001 SPAWAR award winning employee” by U.S. Navy photo by Corinna Duron. – [Public Domai]n via Commons

2. The Hoya Office By Patrickneil (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons