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How to spot — and develop — high-potential talent in your organization

May 29, 2022
Borderless Leadership

Organizations struggle to identify their next-gen leaders, and for good reasons. When you don’t know what the future will bring, how do you figure out who has — or can acquire — the right strengths to meet those challenges? Which high potentials will give you the best return on your development efforts?

Faced with these uncertainties, businesses tend to focus on what they do know: They look for people who’ve taken on more responsibility in their careers or have nailed their performance targets. In short, they look for future leaders by focusing on past track records. And this approach can work well if you’re filling a known role and candidates have had chances to demonstrate the required skills and characteristics.

But past performance doesn’t tell you who can do things they haven’t done before. It also doesn’t help identify high potentials earlier in their career. Your leadership pipeline could be missing out on other, potentially richer sources of talent — people who haven’t had equitable access to mentoring, sponsorship, development, and advancement opportunities.

To tackle this problem, we developed a model for predicting leadership potential that’s grounded not in achievements but in observable, measurable behaviors. Drawing on a database of more than 23,000 candidate assessments for roles at public and private companies, we conducted in-depth analyses of 1,500 individuals, from entry-level professionals to senior leaders. We examined their behaviors and isolated three psychological markers that reliably predict individuals’ ability to grow and handle increased complexity in new roles:

  • Cognitive quotient (CQ): how they leverage their intellect
  • Drive quotient (DQ): what motivates them and how they apply their energy
  • Emotional quotient (EQ): how they interact with those around them

While these markers are rooted in intellect, motivations, and interpersonal style, they don’t provide raw measures of these qualities, as personality tests and other tools often try to do. Instead, they capture how people use these qualities on the job, and together, they give organizations a concrete, objective way to gauge leadership potential, regardless of candidates’ depth of experience.

Let’s look at telltale behaviors in each psychological area — both table stakes and higher-level differentiators that signal capacity for future leadership roles. READ MORE

by James Intagliata, Jennifer Sturman, and Stephen Kincaid


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