How Leaders Can Be Led Astray in High-Potential Selection

The world of work is changing faster than ever and the old rules of business are losing relevance. No longer does money or technology guarantee growth and productivity. We are in the Human Age, where people are the real agents of business success.


Leaders around the world are struggling with accelerating leadership development in their organizations. Growing talent internally is the #1 strategy to address the talent gap in leadership today, according to CEOs. But identifying the right people to lead the business can be highly challenging.


Our research indicates that a multi-dimensional talent assessment methodology is the most effective predictor of future performance. Based on a thorough meta-analysis of existing models and future talent trends, Right Management has constructed a potential model based on three critical leadership dimensions. As you consider candidates for your high potential program, these are important considerations to factor into your decision-making. The best candidates score well in all three areas and one is paramount.


Organizational Confidence and Work Performance – The first component measures how the individual is perceived in the workplace. Organizational Confidence reflects the trust that managers and colleagues have in the candidate while Work Performance is the sum of the individual’s knowledge, skills and experience – their track record in meeting expectations relative to key performance indicators and competency profiles within the organization.


Work Performance is what leaders see, day to day. Many leaders automatically recommend employees who handle current responsibilities exceptionally well because they assume that those employees will continue their upwards trajectory regardless of the position. The mistaken belief that all top performers have the requisite capabilities and/or desire to climb the leadership ladder is a major reason why 75% of high potential program participants do not achieve success in higher level positions.  Performance metrics are valuable but candidate identification that stresses performance ahead of or to the exclusion of other attributes will waste your leader development resources.


Career Drive and Aspiration –Career Drive and Aspiration is a basic requirement in a high-potential candidate and central to our assessment methodology. This trait indicates an employee’s capacity for both upward mobility and lateral mobility, a critical factor in today’s flatter organizations. To gain insights in this area, we use assessment instruments that evaluate such traits as:


Agility – The new cornerstone of modern leadership and high potential models in today’s VUCA world, agility has emerged as the strongest predictor of how well high potentials will perform at a level above their current role.  Agility measures the individual’s ability to adapt rapidly to changing conditions – both internal and external – and to calibrate their approach accordingly. There are three dimensions:

Research is clear that high agility organizations outperform industry peers on all measures, including long term financial performance. And agile organizations require agile leaders. In terms of evaluating candidates for agility, it’s critical to avoid vague, lofty generalities and, instead, use an objective assessment methodology that homes in on leading indicators that are backed by substantive evidence.


None of these success factors can be crafted or applied in isolation. Effective assessment strategies are shaped by the organization’s business strategies and organization goals. That’s where we begin in collaborating with clients on an assessment approach and where you should begin as well to deliver the best results.