By Andy Clayton


With many organisations citing leadership as their number one talent issue (Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2014), talent review processes which seek to ascertain the leaders of the future is an increasingly crucial requirement of the HR function.

One of the big challenges, however, is being able to accurately identify these future leaders.  Where do we find them and what do they look like?  Whilst going through this process, it’s imperative to understand that looking at employees’ current capabilities will only get you so far.  What is required is a tool that helps identify employees’ potential.

A person’s capabilities can be defined as their knowledge and skills which are developed over time and therefore acquired through learning and experience. They reflect what an individual can do.  Evaluation tools, such as competency-based assessments, have their place in discerning such capabilities but because at their heart they zone-in on an individual’s past performance, they don’t tell you if someone will continue to flourish and become a successful senior leader in the future.   

A person’s potential, on the other hand, is reflected by more deep-seated factors which are harder to develop.  These are enduring, stable factors and reflect how the person is.  To measure potential, you need to assess the salient innate personal attributes that form part of an individual’s core psychological make-up.

To be clear, everyone has potential to some degree or other.  The key point is that the speed at which people can successfully step-up and handle the increased complexity and range of demands required at the next level of leadership will vary depending on the potency of their potential.

DDI’s behavioural research has established that the following 4 factors are the cornerstone of leadership potential: 

  • LEADERSHIP PROMISE – the inherent ability to lead others.
  • PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT ORIENTATION – the drive to continuously develop and improve.
  • MASTERY OF COMPLEXITY – the ability to excel in a rapidly changing, fluid work environment.
  • BALANCE OF VALUES AND RESULTS – the ability to work within a company’s culture and still get the desired results.

The time and money that organisations invest in their future leaders is significant.  Backing the wrong horse can therefore be very costly.  However, by targeting these 4 factors, your decision-making and subsequent success rates in choosing the next generation of leaders will be greatly enhanced. 

More information on identifying Leadership Potential can be found here.


Andy's original post on LinkedIn can be found here.
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