Detect Leadership Potentials

High potentials consistently and significantly outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving these superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors that reflect their companies’ culture and values in an exemplary manner. Moreover, they show a strong capacity to grow and succeed throughout their careers within an organization—more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.

X Factor #1: A drive to excel.

High potentials aren’t just high achievers. They are driven to succeed. Good, even very good, isn’t good enough. Not by any stretch. They are more than willing to go that extra mile and realize they may have to make sacrifices in their personal lives in order to advance. That doesn’t mean they aren’t true to their values, but sheer ambition may lead them to make some pretty hard choices.

X Factor #2: A catalytic learning capability.

We often think of high potentials as relentless learners, but a lot of people out there learn continually yet lack an action or results orientation. The high potentials we have come across possess what we call a “catalytic learning capability.” They have the capacity to scan for new ideas, the cognitive capability to absorb them, and the common sense to translate that new learning into productive action for their customers and their organizations.

X Factor #3: An enterprising spirit.

High potentials are always searching for productive ways to blaze new paths. They are explorers and, as such, take on the challenges of leaving their career comfort zones periodically in order to advance. It might mean a risky move—a tricky international assignment, for instance, or a cross-unit shift that demands an entirely new set of skills. Given high potentials’ drive to succeed, you might think they’d be reluctant to take such a chance. But most seem to find that the advantages—the excitement and opportunity—outweigh the risks.

X Factor #4: Dynamic sensors.

Being driven to excel and having an enterprising spirit, combined with the urge to find new approaches, could actually become a recipe for career disaster. High potentials can get derailed for a number of reasons. They may, for instance, be tempted to impulsively accept what seems like a hot opportunity, only to find that it’s a break (not a stretch) assignment or that there’s no long-term career payoff. Another possibility of derailment comes from a desire to please. High potentials may avoid open disagreement with the boss or resist giving honest, potentially disappointing feedback to a peer. Successful high potentials have well-tuned radar that puts a higher premium on quality results.

Beyond judgment, high potentials possess what we call “dynamic sensors,” which enable them to skirt these risks, even if just barely. They have a feel for timing, an ability to quickly read situations, and a nose for opportunity. Their enterprising spirit might otherwise lead them to make foolish decisions, but these sensors help them decide, for example, when to pursue something and when to pull back. High potentials have a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

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