(Part 1)

What is one of the key people challenges today’s organizations face? They need to identify and maintain leadership potential in employees, creating a pipeline of the right leaders, with the right abilities, in the right roles.

Leadership potential can be understood as the possibility that individuals have the qualities (e.g., motivation, skills, abilities, experiences, and characteristics) to effectively perform and advance in their careers. However, recognizing and nurturing it is a big undertaking. According to studies, only about 50% of the organizations report having a high potential identification program. And those which do, don’t often succeed in their choice of leaders. A reason for that is choosing leaders based on their current performance, as opposed to future potential.

Researchers over the years have attempted to measure leadership potential, and by far the most effective indicators have been suggested by Korn Ferry. His assessment framework defines seven facets of leadership.

  1. This creates engagement and energy for a role. People with leadership potential find the role of a leader interesting and the work of leading, motivating. If the work doesn’t align with what drives them, it is unlikely that any leader will have the energy and resilience needed to thrive or even to just survive. According to Silzer and Church (2010), 90% of organizations now use an individual’s career drive as a predictor of high potential.

    Data collected over the past decade by Korn Ferry shows that those who move up in leadership have higher career aspirations, more specific career goals, and a desire to take on general management and C-suite positions. They are engaged by getting things done through others.

  1. Even though every leader’s career is unique, effective leadership is defined by the challenges and experiences it presents. To understand the value of experience, Center for Creative Leadership interviewed 191 executives across six organizations, and asked them two questions: what specifically happened on the job, and what did they learn from the event? The researchers observed that the most developmental experiences are challenging, stretching, and difficult.

    Korn Ferry research has identified that the more developmental experiences a leader accumulates, the greater the possibility that the leader will be successful after promotion to the next level. Such experience could include critical negotiations, crisis management, cross-cultural team building, product development or even business failure. They help leaders develop strategic thinking skills.

  1. Leadership traits. The more an individual’s traits align with the traits that are characteristic of successful leaders, the greater the potential for future success. Korn Ferry research demonstrates that traits most prevalent at top leadership levels include taking charge, self-awareness, stress tolerance, having a vision, and creativity. Attention to detail may contribute to early career success, but inhibit or even derail a top executive. Leaders need to be able to trust their teams to execute, while holding alive the vision for the company.

These three aspects form the foundation for strong leadership potential. But they aren’t complete by themselves. Keen on knowing what the other four facets are? Stay tuned for our next post!

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