Mark Craemer No Comments

Identifying high potential employees is an important and often difficult task. The difficulty is partially due to our methods for identifying and measuring leadership potential.

Using assessments to better understand employees and identify them has been done with success for many years. They can be used to help individuals see how different perspectives can provide diversity and creativity to teams in finding better solutions. These assessments can also assist in determining leadership potential.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for example, is commonly used tool to identify one of 16 personality types in order to help people understand themselves in relation to others, and to learn how to work more cooperatively together. However, no one MBTI personality type is ideally suited for leadership.

The 9-Box Model is used to identify leadership performance and potential, though it should really only be used in combination with other methods. Managers can fairly accurately measure their people on performance because this is typically based on quantifiable metrics and whether or not the individual has met them. However, when it comes to potential, this is much more nuanced and difficult to accurately evaluate.

This is because leadership potential is less defined and less quantifiable. It also relies on predicting an individual’s future actions. And leadership potential is highly subjective making tools like the 9-Box Model difficult to rely on in isolation.

To accurately identify leadership potential requires defining exactly what that means for the organization and the individual, accounting for unconscious bias and reaching beyond one individual’s perspective.

Leadership Potential Defined

Leadership potential could be defined as one’s ability to adapt to challenges in spite of increasing complexity while maintaining proficiency with oneself and others. This may require a combination of aspiration, ability and engagement. Each organization needs to further refine this definition so it can be identified by everyone involved—both those doing the rating as well as those being measured by it. What are the values, attributes and behaviors that are unique to successful leaders in your particular organization?

Floor vs. Ceiling Perspective

Women may be more susceptible to unconscious bias, which can undermine identification of their leadership potential. Research has shown that when being considered for a promotion, women are more likely to be evaluated based on their contribution rather than their potential. Meanwhile, men are more likely to be evaluated based on their potential than on what they’ve contributed. Without direct intent, it may be more about the ceiling when it comes to men and more about the floor with women.

Remove the Single Story

Though we may try to see others from an objective perspective, it is difficult if not impossible to do so. Too often we create a Single Story rather than welcoming multiple stories when it comes to how we see others. Having multiple points of view can lead to a better understanding of the world as it really it. This “balance of stories” provides a much deeper and more accurate view of people. That’s why 360-Feedback can be so effective in better understanding how people show up in the workplace.

Identifying leadership potential can be made easier if you are able to ensure accuracy in your measurement. This requires defining exactly what leadership potential means for your organization, recognizing and accounting for unconscious bias and reaching beyond one individual’s perspective to gain multiple points of view. Once you have this in place, then and only then, choose an appropriate assessment model to assist you further.

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