What are some of the ways to identify and develop future leaders in a company? The year 2020 brought the world to its knees, grappling with the relentless grip of a global pandemic. In this time of crisis, the true essence of leadership emerged, demanding leaders with unwavering clarity, unyielding composure, and adept critical thinking skills. The pandemic laid bare the dire necessity of effective leaders to guide humanity through these trying times.
The arduous task of identifying future leaders falls upon organizations seeking to forge a path through the uncertain landscape. Leadership is not a mere birthright, but rather an art honed through time and effort. Although defining leadership succinctly may prove challenging, identifying effective leaders can be facilitated by recognizing key traits. Enter assessments, the illuminating beacon that guides organizations to discover the most suitable leaders for their future.
Identifying, assessing, and nurturing future leaders stands as a paramount action managers must undertake to propel business growth. A well-executed quest to find the finest talent brings forth abundant benefits for employees, managers, and organizations alike. However, a haphazard approach can prove demotivating for employees, tarnish corporate reputation, and wreak havoc on performance.
The concept of leadership potential appears enticing in theory, and most managers, along with training professionals, hold implicit models of what a high-potential employee embodies. Alas, determining leadership potential can prove to be a labyrinthine task.
First and foremost, these implicit models may be marred with biases by ways to identify and develop future leaders in a company. Some managers might cling to the notion that high potential equals “someone who looks like me” or perhaps “someone who resembles our current leaders.” Secondly, implicit models can be rooted in personal biases and misconceptions about the prerequisites for a future leader.
So, why does discerning potential present such a formidable challenge?
As much as managers and leaders would love to simplify the concept of leadership potential, years of research and practical experience reveal its complexity. Leadership potential encapsulates a medley of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs), not universally inherent in every employee, and often not easily discernible without astute insight into what to seek in others.
Nevertheless, there is hope. The realm of Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychology has dedicated significant attention in recent years to unraveling these perplexing questions. Today, there exists a lucid framework to understand, measure, and develop the components of leadership potential. The key lies in knowing precisely what to look for and how to execute this endeavor skillfully.
But what, indeed, is leadership potential?
Amidst discussions about leadership potential, managers and leaders may find themselves confounded, as they often conflate it with more common notions of human potential. It is essential to delineate potential into three distinct flavors: general potential, leadership potential, and destination potential.
General potential spans all employees, as each possesses the capacity to grow at some level. This notion aligns with the principles of organizational development (OD) and learning and development (L&D). However, it should be distinguished from the other categories, ways to identify and develop future leaders in a company, as it encompasses a broader and inclusive scope.
Destination potential, on the other hand, is intricately tied to talent management and succession planning endeavors. It represents a preparedness for a targeted senior leadership role or destination. This higher-level concept finds its place in targeted planning, mainly pertinent to talent-driven roles or senior-level executives.
Traits of Top Performers and the Future Leaders
In the quest to unearth the hidden gems among employees, a shimmering array of tools awaits employers and human resource managers, serving as beacons to guide them toward the top performers and future leaders, illuminating their brilliance amidst the crowd.
1. The Pursuit of Excellence: A Top Performer’s Quest
The pursuit of mediocrity is not in the lexicon of a top performer. For her, the horizon stretches far beyond mere adequacy. Instead, she aspires to transcend the boundaries of conventional achievement, seeking to surpass 100% and striving for unparalleled quality in her work.
The elixir of recognition is what fuels her passion. Thirsting for compliments and commendations, she labors diligently, pouring her heart and soul into producing results of exceptional quality.
2. The Trailblazer’s Initiative and Self-Direction
No hovering overseer is required to shepherd a top-performing employee through their tasks. Driven by intrinsic motivation, this trailblazer takes the reins of his work, proactively seeking ways to enhance performance. While guidance and advice may be sought, he charts his own course, delving into research and dedicating unwavering attention to projects.
Autonomy is the trailblazer’s ally, accomplishing tasks without being spoon-fed instructions. On the frontline of challenges, he volunteers for new assignments, demonstrating a zeal for self-directed growth.
3. The Feedback Connoisseur
Beyond seeking applause, top performers are connoisseurs of feedback, eagerly seeking evaluations from superiors, peers, and clients alike. Constructive criticism is their potion, leveraging it to refine their performance. They transcend their job descriptions, pouring effort into achieving the company’s objectives.
4. The Fearless Decision-Maker
A true leader emerges when fear meets courage. Nervousness does not deter the good leader; rather, he embraces boldness and fearlessness. In the cutthroat and competitive business landscape, such fearlessness is an essential trait for navigating uncharted waters.
5. The Pursuit of Growth: Continuous Skills Development
A future-oriented employee reveals his aspirations through an insatiable thirst for knowledge and skill. Relentless in his pursuit of growth, he actively seeks opportunities to enhance his competencies, aligning them with his career trajectory. Even at his own expense, he invests in training, workshops, and courses to soar to new heights.
6. The Oasis of Composure
In the arid desert of pressure, some thrive amidst chaos. Cool and composed, these employees exemplify leadership potential. Their tranquility emerges from confidence, fortified by knowledge and preparedness. Unfazed by escalating demands, they exhibit grace under fire, a testament to their leadership mettle.
7. The Art of Connection: Exceptional Interpersonal Skills
Leadership’s canvas is woven with the threads of communication and connection. Those adept at networking exude the promise of leadership. Charisma is their badge, effortlessly captivating and engaging diverse individuals. The art of building and sustaining relationships, a hallmark of effective leaders, comes naturally to them.
Ways to Identify and Develop Future Leaders in a Company
Leadership potential emerges as a fascinating realm, best defined through a comprehensive model known as the “Leadership Potential BluePrint.” Encompassing five decades of scientific inquiry, research, and I-O psychology best practices, this model skillfully distills leadership potential into a concise set of dimensions universally applicable across organizations.
Empowered by this blueprint, managers gain the prowess to identify employees likely to harbor the highest leadership potential. The quest begins with a discerning eye, seeking behaviors that consistently embody the following attributes:
1. Effective Interpersonal Skills
The foundation of leadership potential rests upon the ability to deftly manage and collaborate with others. This prowess reveals itself during diverse interactions, ranging from casual exchanges to pivotal meetings. Delving deeper, personality tests and behavioral measures, ways to identify and develop future leaders in a company, like 360-degree feedback, furnish further insights.
2. Strategic Thinking and Broad Perspectives
Visionaries stand out in their capacity to “connect the dots” and embrace a panoramic view of the business landscape and the world beyond. This attribute often emerges in meetings, presentations, and ideation sessions. Is their thinking confined to the present or do they display reflective, forward-looking cognition? Cognitive tests and business simulations offer valuable metrics to evaluate these dimensions.
3. Learning Agility and Adaptability
The growth-oriented facet centers on an individual’s aptitude to draw wisdom from experiences and deftly apply them to novel situations. A keen observer will spot these skills unfolding amidst daily work, presentations, and team gatherings. How adept are employees at seeking fresh knowledge, adapting to change, surmounting obstacles, and learning from past events? Formal learning or leadership programs provide a fertile ground to observe their application of newfound knowledge, readily measurable through diverse tools with a focus on learning agility.
4. Ambition, Motivation, and Impact-Driven Attitude
Fueling growth, ambition, motivation, and drive push individuals to deliver exceptional results, aiming for a sphere of influence at more senior levels. Their exceptional potential emerges when they willingly undertake tasks exceeding their current role, and at times, even surpassing those above them. During times of crisis or team restructuring, they may unhesitatingly assume additional responsibilities, thriving amidst the challenges. However, an excess of ambition may warrant caution, as it could foreshadow potential derailing behavior in the future, such as a relentless pursuit of success at any cost. Striving for balance stands as a salient virtue.
Mastering the art of identifying leadership potential demands astute observation, introspection, and the application of appropriate assessment tools. By peering into the depths of these key dimensions, managers pave the way for nurturing and developing the leaders of tomorrow, propelling organizations toward an auspicious future.
5. Critical Thinking and Learning Agility
Critical thinking stands tall as one of the most sought-after traits in a leader. This ability to perceive situations from multiple angles, steering clear of assumptions and opinions, is a prized jewel in the crown of leadership. A skilled leader can analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions from written information, skillfully differentiating between assumptions and facts. Evaluating arguments, they discern strengths and weaknesses, drawing decisive conclusions. The esteemed Watson-Glaser test emerges as a favored tool among hiring managers, providing a timed assessment for job applicants and an untimed evaluation during professional training programs.
In the ever-evolving, volatile world, learning agility shines as a crucial attribute. A leader’s ability to make swift decisions without relying on prior knowledge is a testament to their adaptability. John C Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM) test serves as a powerful tool embraced by successful organizations to gauge learning agility. Once an individual triumphs over this assessment, it becomes an unmistakable indicator of their aptitude for rapid learning.
6. Team Management Skills
Team management skills emerge as the linchpin for turning organizational dreams into reality. In today’s corporate landscape, where hybrid work cultures and interdependent teams prevail, effective team management is a force to be reckoned with. The acclaimed Five Factor Model assessment serves as a guiding star in evaluating a leader’s team management traits. With its hierarchical organization of personality traits, including Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, this assessment unveils crucial insights into a person’s behavior and temperament.
7. Core Leadership Capabilities
Within the realm of leadership lies a constellation of standard competencies that act as guiding stars for success. These indispensable capabilities encompass influential skills, the art of developing others, the power of collaboration, profound self-awareness, the essence of team building, the finesse of coaching, and the gift of constructive feedback.
Should your organization boast a formal leadership model, these competencies and behaviors stand poised for incorporation into your perceptive observations? Their impact can reverberate widely, magnified through behaviorally-grounded tools like the profound insights yielded by 360-degree feedback measures and the candid reflections gathered from insightful employee surveys.
8. The Luminous Trail of Job Performance Evaluation
Embarking on a journey through the labyrinth of work experience, the employee’s past and present performance become luminous guiding stars. A tale of accomplishments unfolds, not just within the confines of the current role, but also beyond, tracing a resplendent path through other companies. This odyssey unveils patterns, early signs of leadership prowess, and the promise of ascending the ranks.
Enlightenment comes from engaging in discourse with supervisors and peers, the keepers of insightful tales, narrating their first-hand encounters with the employee’s leadership demeanor. The true essence of potential lies within these interactions, a treasure trove of leadership behaviors.
Basking in the radiance of top performers, the company’s performance evaluation system shines like a guiding constellation. Metrics glitter, offering a glimpse of each employee’s output, a constellation of brilliance. Amongst these celestial beings, the top performers exude an effulgence that outshines the rest.
A wondrous tool to categorize candidates, this celestial evaluation transcends simple classifications. Beyond separating top performers from the rest, it delves deeper, unveiling the problem solvers – emerging decision-makers and managers, destined to shape the company’s destiny. The fast learners, cosmic speedsters, destined to ascend to the realm of top performers in the days to come.
9. The Celestial Dance of Competency Assessment
In the celestial realm of competency assessment, a myriad of programs awaits, designed to divine the potential leaders of tomorrow. Competency assessment centers beam with expertise, offering their services to companies seeking to unveil the hidden potential within their employees.
Goliaths of industry craft their own competency modeling programs, celestial constellations of skill assessment, adorning their vast domains. These behemoths, self-sufficient in their celestial expertise, need not seek external guidance, for they hold the secrets to unlocking the leadership prowess of their employees.
10. Key Functional Skills
Embarking on a journey toward future success necessitates anchoring oneself with a rich repertoire of key functional skills. These skills, often positioned at the helm of strategic prowess, may encompass a digital mindset, the mastery of profound analytics, and a profound comprehension of the intricacies of modern technology. Amidst the ever-evolving landscape, traditional approaches to functional capability remain steadfast, heralding the merits of traversing diverse functions or subfunctions to nurture robust general managerial talent.
Whether rooted in sales, marketing, operations, finance, HR, or beyond, ways to identify and develop future leaders in a company, these competencies paint a portrait of excellence. In the art of evaluation, the canvas unfurls as experiences are unraveled and learnings scrutinized through the lens of competency measures and the finesse of structured interview techniques.
11. Unveiling the Veil: The Conversational Odyssey
In the realm of human interaction, the art of conversation is a profound alchemist, capable of transmuting mere words into invaluable insights. Formal or informal, a conversation can unveil the very essence of a person, revealing the intricacies of their character and the mettle that lies within.
Embrace every opportunity to delve into the depths of an employee’s mind, engaging in a tête-à-tête that transcends the superficial. Probe their thoughts, aspirations, and beliefs, for within those spoken words, the seeds of leadership potential may be sown.
Seek counsel from the custodians of wisdom, the current leaders, supervisors, and managers. Bestow upon them the task of discerning the diamonds in the rough, those employees who emanate promise and potential. The mentors, with their seasoned discernment, possess a rare gift of foretelling future leaders.
Let us not overlook the invaluable perspective of the leader, for they hold a mirror reflecting leadership’s true impact. Query their thoughts, opinions, and perceptions on who among their peers exudes the aura of a true leader.
Beware, though, of the illusions that may arise, for the shadows of bias may taint these conversational gems. Embrace professional skepticism, a shield against partiality, as you traverse the conversational labyrinth in search of the radiant top performers and future leaders.
12. The Ascension: Skill Development Through Training
Within the heart of every company lies the responsibility to nurture and cultivate the growth of its employees, for in their competence lies the company’s ascendancy. Thus, bespoke training programs and diverse learning experiences are crafted, and fine-tuned to unleash the true potential within each employee.
Through these transformative learning endeavors, the company’s discerning eyes can perceive the glimmers of greatness. Amidst the learning journey, some employees shine like stars, radiating promise as top performers and future leaders.
13. The Gaze: Observing the Leaders in the Making
In the theater of the workplace, a celestial spectacle unfolds – the on-the-job observation. Here, the spotlight illuminates the leadership behaviors and attitudes of employees as they perform their roles.
Within these daily enactments, the true essence of leadership potential manifests. A cosmic ballet of actions and decisions, revealing the essence of each employee’s leadership mettle.
How to Formally Assess for Leadership Potential?
In the quest to unravel the enigma of leadership potential, the best-in-class approach comes to life in what is known as the “multi-trait, multi-method” methodology. A scientific dance, orchestrating an intricate symphony of potential facets, minimizing biases that often lurk in the shadows of collective evaluation. This harmonious amalgamation entails the ways to identify and develop future leaders in a company as well as the utilization of various tools, each designed to illuminate a different aspect of the multifaceted potential.
A harmonious chorus emerges as self-assessments, unveiling the kaleidoscope of personalities, and immersive simulations dance hand in hand. These artistic endeavors intertwine with the candid brushstrokes of behavioral ratings bestowed by direct reports, peers, and managers, their perspectives akin to splashes of vibrant colors on a vast canvas. Amidst this grand masterpiece, structured interviews and assessment centers beckon, peering deep into the labyrinth of interpersonal dynamics.
High Performers Are Not Necessarily High Potentials
In the modern tapestry of talent management, trendsetters with leading-edge functions embrace this multifaceted approach wholeheartedly. A testament to its prowess, a recent benchmark survey in 2022 illuminated that even amidst the global pandemic’s unyielding pressures, a staggering 86% of large companies, with resolute HR and talent management functions, adorn their high-potential identification and development endeavors with an exquisite suite of assessments.
An astronomical rise from the 70% recorded in a kindred survey in 2012, is a testament to the ascendancy of this all-encompassing approach. Embodied by PepsiCo, an exemplar of this finesse, who has graced the halls of leadership with the ways to identify and develop future leaders in a company, and enigmatic orchestration of their assessments and the BluePrint, resonating as part of their illustrious, award-winning LeAD program for over a decade.
A somber truth to behold, illuminated as we traverse the dimensions of potential, lies in the clarity that high performers do not invariably wield the baton of high potential. As the wheels of time progress, the boundaries of performance and potential converge and diverge, distinct but inseparable. While performance stands as a formidable gatekeeper, welcoming deserving talents into the realm of potential, it cannot preside as the harbinger of future leadership prowess.
In the symphony of success, it is not a performance that emerges as the melody of potential but the grand compositions of foundational, growth, and career dimensions that take center stage. They are the true maestros of leadership potential, their overtures coalescing with the data-driven precision of organizational designated potential. The dance of perceptions, orchestrated by the manager and HR, tango with the actual predictive measures, breathing life into potential discussions.
In the closing act of this profound exploration, the resounding crescendo is clear – potential resides within all, yet the ethereal mantle of leadership potential graces only a chosen few. For managers seeking to imbue rigor into their process, the keys to discovery lie in the intricate intricacies of key dimensions, diligently observed in the choreography of day-to-day interactions and meetings with employees.
Yet, for those yearning to waltz in the realm of data-driven precision, resourced with abundant treasures, weaving a formal assessment process becomes the pas de deux of choice. In this grand finale, as the curtain falls, the wisdom lingers – potential unfurls its enigmatic beauty, beckoning the leaders of tomorrow.
Criteria for Future Leadership Potential
1. Catalysts vs. Observers: Identifying Role-takers
Effortless categorization facilitates the discernment of two groups among employees: observers and actors. Observers prefer to remain on the sidelines, spectating events unfold. In stark contrast, actors spring into action, serving as catalysts, and endearing themselves to management and the organization as a whole.
2. In the Arena of Accountability and Responsibility
An exemplary leader embraces accountability, courageously admitting mistakes, and making amends. This trait heralds commitment to future leadership roles. Although hesitations may linger, a true leader surges forward, acknowledging the risk of failure while refusing to be paralyzed by it.
3. The Willingness to Shoulder More
A leader oversees multifarious activities, departments, and projects. Akin to a jack-of-all-trades, they display a readiness to embrace additional responsibilities and a knack for mastering them. Multitasking prowess, executing multiple tasks with finesse and excellence, serves as a telltale sign of a burgeoning leader.
4. The Vital Essence of Empathy and Team Player Attitude
In the pursuit of future leadership roles, collaboration with others is quintessential. A virtuous leader commences as an adept team player, possessing an innate understanding of team dynamics. How can one aspire to lead if they remain oblivious to the fundamental principles governing effective teams?
In the vast tapestry of employees, some thrive in solitude, while others unleash their potential within a team. However, the exceptional candidate deftly navigates both realms, signaling the makings of a formidable leader.
A potential leader radiates the essence of altruism, displaying a genuine willingness to extend help to others. Selflessness becomes their creed, propelling them to place others’ welfare before their own. Leadership does not reside in aloofness; hence, a true leader seamlessly interacts with fellow employees.
Certain aspirants believe their elevated status elevates them beyond their colleagues. Consequently, they establish rigidly professional relationships, eschewing personal connections.
Yet, personal relationships in the workplace carry equal significance to professional ones. A future leader embraces both facets, adroitly managing both spheres with finesse.
5. The Art of Eloquence: Above-Average Communication Skills
Charisma reigns once more, influencing the ability to captivate attention and command respect. There exist employees who effortlessly engage in meaningful conversations, navigating effortlessly through encounters with individuals from all walks of life.
Leadership demands eloquence – an unwavering capacity to articulate ideas with clarity, conciseness, and conviction. Whether verbal or written, a leader must adeptly convey their messages to inspire, enlighten, and mobilize their team. At the same time, ways to identify and develop future leaders in a company, the leader remains a profound listener, welcoming the perspectives of others with open arms.
6. Unveiling the Gems: Potential Trumps Performance
It is vital to grasp a key distinction: top performers do not necessarily embody leadership material. Exceptional results and achievements, though commendable, do not singularly define a future leader. Rather, delving into an employee’s aptitude, personal aspirations aligned with organizational goals, and overall potential yields a clearer vision of leadership prospects.
7. Kindling the Flame: Attachment and Commitment
Embrace the exploration of an employee’s level of engagement with the company and its aspirations. While some are content focusing solely on their designated tasks, others fervently devote themselves to the company’s growth and prosperity. Initiating valuable contributions and providing unwavering support to current leaders earmarks future leadership potential.
In this era of uncertainty, leaders must embody critical and new competencies to navigate the tumultuous waters successfully. Assessing these competencies in potential leaders stands as an imperative for organizations striving to cultivate and nurture robust teams that can thrive in the face of adversity.
For most managers, leadership potential takes center stage as the most crucial facet. These indicators and predictors epitomize future leadership effectiveness at higher echelons of the company. Not every employee exhibits leadership potential for senior roles, prompting the common classification of high-potential employees as those capable of a “two-level jump.” Yet, managers should introspect and question the foundation of this judgment today and ponder what it should be based on in the future.