Spotting Talent and Developing Leaders in Your Business

September 15, 2012 in , , ,

An important part of any business owner’s job is to identify and develop rising leaders. The need to develop this “pipeline” of leadership can become even more critical to the success of your business as you grow. The best companies may have the ability to identify rising stars early in their careers, and then deliberately focus on preparing them for larger leadership roles.

Assessing and identifying leadership potential has always been, and always will be, a combination of science and art. However, there is an emerging body of research that can guide you in how to assess leadership potential.

A study by the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC) suggests that a high-potential employee is someone with the “ability, engagement, and aspiration to rise to and succeed in more senior, more critical positions.” Here is a summary of the three main components cited in the study to help identify emerging talent:

  1. Ability: Functional skills, emotional intelligence, and mental agility
  2. Engagement: Commitment to your business and willingness to go above and beyond what is expected
  3. Aspiration: Desire for advancement, recognition, prestige, and influence

Ability, the study says, is the most important ingredient, followed by engagement, and then aspiration. However, their research shows that all three components must be in ample supply. While 93 percent of high-potential people are already high performers, only 29 percent of those high performers have leadership potential. The remaining 71 percent of high performers may not become good leaders almost always because of a lack of engagement, aspiration, or both, but not due to lack of ability.

According to the CLC, an organization’s management team needs to:

  • help potential leaders build strong internal relationships
  • commit to executive involvement and a customized development plan
  • create leadership challenges inside the job experience.

The CLC identified the following strategies to help organizations develop their leaders:

  1. Identify the most challenging transition points in an employee’s career and determine the most critical development experiences required for high performance at each transition.
  2. Help potential leaders build professional, information-rich, and job-focused relationships with managers, peers, and direct reports, and enable them to overcome ongoing business-related challenges.
  3. Build achievable development plans that are coupled with visible executive-level commitment. (The presence of an inadequate development plan is worse than having no plan at all.)
  4. Development experiences must focus on the presence and quality of the leadership challenge inside the job experience.

Finally, here is a useful 10-point list of qualities to look for in a potential leader:

  1. Motivation to lead: Steps up to take charge, leads by example, willing to move forward when outcomes are uncertain and personal risk is high.
  2. Brings out the best in people: Makes everyone around them look better, treats people with dignity and respect, is honest and can be trusted.
  3. Authenticity: Exhibits basic genuineness, integrity, and honesty; admits mistakes; discloses true feelings, and is confident without being arrogant.
  4. Receptivity to feedback: Open to feedback, admits and learns from mistakes.
  5. Learning agility: Always looking to improve, can quickly process new information and learn from experiences and mistakes, displays a wide range of interests.
  6. Adaptability: Can juggle competing demands and adjust to new situations and people, maintains a “can-do” attitude in the face of change.
  7. Conceptual thinking: Visualizes new possibilities without getting bogged down in the details, can think in broad and conceptual terms.
  8. Navigates ambiguity: Adept at simplifying complex decisions; can work well without all the facts.
  9. Culture fit: Behavior and style is a good fit for your business and your work culture.
  10. Passion for results: Overcomes obstacles to get things done, demonstrates tenacity and perseverance when faced with challenges.

Remember, it’s best to design and use a consistent process when developing leaders from within. Make sure to involve other leaders, and let your high-potential employees know that you are interested in and committed to helping them succeed.

The information in this article should not be considered legal or personnel advice. It is provided for informational purposes only. If you require legal or personnel advice, or need other professional assistance, you should always consult your attorney or human resources professional.


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