How can leadership potential be measured

The leadership potential compass

Which potential factors speak for greater leadership success?

An age-old dispute has determined leadership research since the last century:

Can you learn successful leadership or are successful leaders born that way?

The great-man theory or the property theories against the rest of the leadership theories. We humans tend to have such dichotomous questions and decision-making paths. But the world is usually more differentiated and not just black or white.


Talent or diligence in training?

Our common sense allows us to recognize from completely different realities of life, e.g. school or various educational institutions, what the interplay of talent and learning (knowledge and training diligence) causes.
With the following (very simplified) variants, consider who you would trust the highest probability of success in later professional life in a scientific discipline:

  1. A person with great talent but little support (learning + training)
  2. A person with little talent but strong support (learning + training)
  3. A person with great talent and strong support (learning + training)
  4. A person with little talent and little support (learning + training)


Person 3. Right? Or not? When deciding on second place, the vote is likely to be less clear. Can a person make up for a lack of talent with better / more intensive learning and training?


At this point at the latest, a third variable comes into play, motivation. We know (at least) from numerous heroic stories that there are people who have come a long way under poor conditions and with little support due to a high level of motivation and discipline. In retrospect, it is often no longer possible to measure whether the talent was also poorly developed or not recognized.


Many companies now have more or less sophisticated competence models and systems for measuring and checking relevant competencies. A competent manager is undoubtedly predestined for success, even if there is by no means an automatic connection.


Every company that wants to be on the market tomorrow invests in the development of leadership skills. Most business leaders have recognized that good leadership is a critical success factor for business results. But is it also investing in the right talent? Do talents fall through the net? Don't you sometimes put a lot of effort into turning the best technical experts into good executives, even though other skills are required here?


How is it decided who will be (further) developed to become a nextleader?


In our consulting practice, we find time and again that applicants for a management position to be filled at short notice are often selected using the same methods as young people who are actually more likely to develop in the long term. And then competencies and potential are often lumped together and no longer clearly differentiated.


Competency or potential diagnostics

Actually, it is clear: If I am looking for a competent manager for a current management job, I need competence diagnostics in order to make an optimal decision. But if I am looking for the best talents for a talent pool for later management tasks, then competence diagnostics will reach its limits. After all, how is the best talent supposed to cope with difficult management situations competently (i.e. safely, consciously and repeatably) without knowledge, training and experience?


So what about potential models in companies? We have rarely come across such models.


It is therefore time to implement sensible and action-based potential diagnostics in the entire trend topic of "talent management". This also offers the opportunity to discover hidden and less visible talents other people, who may draw attention to themselves a little more urgently or who have the right patrons, are sent to training, but later do not bring their supposed horsepower onto the street.


If you look at science, research and literature, you are surprised how little substantial research results can be found on the topic of leadership potential. Again, it is encouraging that the few useful approaches come to very similar results. Only the terms for similar factors are sometimes more different.


That is why we have viewed and evaluated a large amount of material in the course of a meta-study or analysis over the past few months and identified six relevant potential factors for the nextleader:

  1. Cognitive intelligence
  2. Relationship intelligence
  3. Self-awareness
  4. Self-strength
  5. Growth orientation
  6. Mobilization energy


If these potential factors are present in a person, the probability of competent and thus successful leadership is much higher. Above all, these factors are to be determined independently of previous management experience and thus create better comparability and fairness in the identification of talent.

The leadership potential compass

With the Leadership Potential Compass, we have developed a holistic system with which the individual leadership potential of talents is recognized and is intended to help companies discover future managers in order to promote them in a targeted manner. This consists of three building blocks that can be used either individually, in combination or as a supplement.

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