How can you tell if someone is a high potential leader?

Many of my clients ask me to help them define a “high potential” leader.  There are many different models out there, but I tend to consider the following four elements because it is grounded in research and practical: Results – Do they have a track record of achieving business results?  If a leader can be counted on to get work done, and they tend to take on work that drives value and competitive advantage for the organization, it is a precursor for future promotions.  When evaluating results, it is important to consider whether they are on the critical path for the organization.  That is, they take initiative and get results that will drive the business goals forward and they do things that take the company to the next level.

Relationships – How do they get the work done?  Fundamentally, an effective leader is concerned with the “What” and the “Who” at work.  They get results, and they proactively build relationships with key stakeholders.  They take the time to identify who has influence in the organization and who will impact their goals.  They win the hearts and minds of others and they are able to have constructive conversations even when there is conflict. download adobe photoshop cs6

Engagement – Do they want to stay with the organization?  If a leader has the intention to quit and their career or lifestyle goals do not align with the job at hand, it will impact their potential.  The bottom line is that a person who aspires to do the work and who is bought into the mission will have greater potential than someone who is idly passing time.

Learning Ability - Have they demonstrated that when they are given a challenge they rise to the moment?  With each leadership position that is progressively more complex, people need to be able to learn things fast and apply them.  I am not talking about doing google searches and getting more information.  I am talking about the ability to absorb information, create a strategy, and execute in complex situations.  This is more than intelligence.  It involves doing research, analyzing situations, assessing risks and the probability of success, and deciding what to do.