In today’s ever-changing environment, companies report that managing and developing high-potential leaders is one of the most difficult corporate practices. Past experiences, current skills and competencies are insufficient indicators of future success; organizations must start to rethink how they spot, develop and retain their best executives. This is done by assessing leaders’ potential – the raw material that can help predict the development of new key leadership capabilities, as well as the speed of that development.
Executive potential can be assessed by exploring and identifying where leaders fall on several critical traits. Working with executives on a global scale, we have found that these traits are actually closely related to competencies, so an executive with high levels of certain traits will be better able to develop associated competencies. ‘Potential’ can help identify where current or future leaders can build further capability. It provides a realistic view of future competency profiles, improving succession planning and removing risk from talent decisions. Measuring potential allows customized development focusing on the competencies most easily developed by the leader, and it can help to leverage natural strengths to accelerate development.
4 Hallmarks of Potential
The question then shifts to how to truly measure potential after understanding key traits. To truly measure potential in executives and turn it into success, measure: Curiosity, Insight, Engagement and Determination. These can be observed on a 4-point scale ranging from “Emerging” to “Extraordinary.”
Curiosity is about proactively seeking new experiences, ideas and knowledge. Curious leaders have a tendency to solicit feedback. They are driven to learn and change, and are energized by constantly refreshing themselves on an intellectual, experiential and personal level. Curiosity is fundamental because it affects the developmental trajectory of most crucial leadership competencies, namely: Results Orientation, Strategic Orientation, Collaboration and Influence, Team Leadership, Developing Organizational Capabilities, Change Leadership, Market Understanding and Inclusiveness.
“In today’s corporate environment, organizations need to tap into new and innovative practices for identifying, onboarding and retaining news leaders.”
Leaders who demonstrate Insight are energized by making sense of a vast range of complex information, and recognize opportunities that can set new directions. They also can switch effortlessly between high level, conceptual thinking and intelligent analysis of granular data. Insight is strongly linked to Strategic Orientation, and also can help predict the future development of competencies such as Market Understanding, and Developing Organizational Capability.
Higher Engagement can be seen in leaders who seek to understand themselves and others, and who know how to connect on an emotional and logical level with both individuals and groups. These leaders are often energized by and able to communicate a persuasive vision, which helps others feel more connected and committed to the organization. Leaders with higher Engagement are more likely to develop competencies such as Collaboration, Influencing Ability, Team Leadership and Inclusiveness.
Determination is seen in leaders who are motivated by challenging goals, who have the courage and willingness to take intelligent risks, and who will remain resilient in the face of adversity. They also look for disconfirming evidence, and will be willing to change direction when necessary. This potential trait is associated with competencies such as Results Orientation and Change Leadership.
Closing the Gap Between Competencies and Potential
While the 4 potential hallmarks provide a foundation for certain leadership competencies, the extent to which these flourish is highly dependent on the development approach an organization takes. To turn potential into higher-level competencies, leaders have to be given the right opportunities, as well as coaching, targeted development goals and other support along the way. They should, for instance, be given job rotations or stretch assignments that allow them to work on their development needs, and get involved in coaching or group interventions targeted toward building their competencies. In today’s corporate environment, organizations need to tap into new and innovative practices for identifying, onboarding and retaining news leaders.