This article takes a fresh and radical look at organizational talent management strategies. It offers a critique of some of the prevalent assumptions underpinning certain talent management practices, particularly those fuelled by the narratives of scarcity and metaphors of war. We argue that talent management programmes based on these assumptions ignore important social and ethical dimensions, to the detriment of both organizations and individuals. We offer instead a set of principles proceeding from, and informed by, Sen's ‘capability approach’ (CA). Based on the idea of freedoms not resources, the CA circumvents discourses of scarcity and restores vital social and ethical considerations to ideas about talent management. We also emphasize its versatility and sensitivity to the particular circumstances of individual organizations such that corporate leaders and human resource practitioners might use the principles for a number of practical purposes.