Identifying high potentials and how to develop them
The skill set of your leaders has the greatest impact on the happiness and performance of your employees. Familiarising yourself with proven strategies of leadership can help you retain talent and fully develop prospective leaders.
The leadership advisory services at Egon Zehnder identified what they believe to be the eight crucial leadership competencies to evaluate executives on their mastery (the orange titles in the table on the right) assessing where they fall from Level 1 (baseline) to Level 7 (extraordinary). They also found that four traits – curiosity, determination, engagement and insight – predict how far managers will progress. Each leadership competency shows the traits linked to strengthen it.
Of course, not all leaders can be good at everything. It’s not humanly possible. Typically C-level positions require a rating of at least 4 in the competencies essential for those roles, and CEO positions need a rating of at least 5. So even for the most senior positions, when developing talent you should seek above-par scores in most, and stand-out scores in just 2 to 3.
It’s important for businesses to know how to identify high potentials and understand their capacity for growth. They also need to give leaders stretch projects and the support they need to succeed.
Stretch projects and assignments can help leaders develop competencies. The types of projects can vary depending on which competencies need improving. For instance, to strengthen ‘change leadership’ you can put them in jobs where they manage a corporate-wide function or oversee a restructure. On the other hand, to improve ‘market understanding’ they can focus on projects where they’ll manage a P&L, run a start-up or lead multiple regions or businesses.
We think that a scientific approach to leadership development, like the one at Egon Zehnder has identified has many benefits. Though in our opinion, there can be issues with these types of models. They can be daunting to implement due to their complexity and subjective nature. And why are the four traits (curiosity, determination, engagement and insight) the only traits used to determine an employee’s potential? Lastly, what makes one employee more curious than another? It seems to pigeon-hole employees into categories and forgets that we’re dealing with people. We think a combination of a scientific approach and humanised approach (with regular conversations and performance check-ins) could be a well-rounded solution.
Whatever approach you decide, one thing is clear, not only is it proven that focusing on developing talent instead of hiring from the outside can save your business a lot of money, it can also give you a strong competitive advantage. You’ll also have better work environments and happier workers when your executive team and managers are transformed into the great leaders they were meant to be.