Determining Leadership Potential for Organizational Success

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What makes a good leader? Simple question, complex answer – because more often than anyone cares to admit, people are placed in leadership roles that are, simply, not a fit. The ability to recognize leadership potential is critical – but there’s a great variation in the way we perceive that potential. That variation leads to inconsistent leadership, the kind that can undermine your organization. Today, we talk with Dr. Kimberly Janson, author of Determining Leadership Potential: Powerful Insights into Winning at the Talent Game. Here, she explains:

  • The problem of having too many frameworks to assess leadership potential;
  • The dangers inherent in poor leadership;
  • How bias can impact our assessments; and
  • How utilizing The Leadership Blueprint can help accurately determine leadership potential!

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Leadership Potential

  • It is important to get to the root cause surrounding problems in leadership, and focus on leadership development work. 
    • Choosing the wrong people for leadership roles can have a tremendous impact on an organization, and choosing the right people is critical
  • One of the challenges we face in assessing leadership potential is that there are too many frameworks, so there isn’t a clear one for people to follow.
    • This has led the organizational development space to explode over the last few decades, but also make it more fragmented because there are so many different approaches.
  • Some organizations are not having concerted conversations about what they consistently look for in leadership potential. 
    • The ones who do drive a higher level of consistency have better results. 
  • Organizations must equip their team with deep expertise in being able to assess and determine leadership potential.


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Leadership Hires and Promotions

  • Bad leadership has a poor impact on the people who work for them, and creates a lot of frustration in the workplace. 
    • Poor leadership can contribute to absenteeism, low productivity, lower employee engagement, and high rates of turnover.
    • Poor leadership can drive people out of the company, costing the organization more money and resources over time to keep up, hire new people, and address short and long term problems.

Assessing Leadership Potential

  • Dr. Janson’s research included interviews with 4 leaders at companies within the same industry to determine what criteria they use to measure leadership potential.
    • Within said research, one organization submitted more than a hundred different responses on how they assess leadership potential.
    • However, the CEOs that were interviewed all had a similar assessment for leadership qualities. 
  • If every organization, and if leaders within the SAME organization assess leadership differently, it makes it even more challenging to assess and develop competent leaders.
  • If companies work on developing a concerted approach and ingraining it throughout an organization to develop competent leaders consistently over time.
  • Some of the top qualities that leaders look for to assess leadership potential, based on studies, are emotional intelligence and performance
    • It should be noted, however, that performance is not necessarily a predictor of potential unless they are staying in the same, or similar, job

The Leadership Blueprint

  • The Leadership Blueprint is a simple, yet powerful, way to determine leadership potential.
    • The blueprint was developed in 2014 by Allan Church and Rob Silzer and contains three components:
      • The first level is about intelligence and personality, which are largely fixed and we are born with. While we can gain more knowledge, we cannot get cognitively smarter. Additionally, having the right personality is important to note, and being able to bring the right dynamic. This level is important to get a sense of a candidate’s elasticity because tasks and roles get more complex when ascending to larger roles. 
      • The next level is motivation and learning agility, and hiring eager, motivated people. It’s vital to have leaders who have lots of initiative and energy, and bring that into the workplace. However, the candidate is the one who controls their own motivation, and not the organization, so being able to identify that early is key. Additionally, hiring and promoting someone with high learning agility shows strong leadership potential because they can learn and assimilate quickly.
      • The third level is teaching them strong leadership capabilities and skills
        • Being able to teach others how to be good leaders is essential. There are techniques that can make someone a better leader, but that’s if they have the right components
        • The skills and components of the blueprint are elements that should be at the forefront of determining a candidate’s leadership potential
  • It is important for Human Resources personnel to be familiar with The Leadership Blueprint. C-suite executives must also be fluent in the concept.

Measuring Personality and Motivation

  • There are several ways to assess and measure personality.
    • Personality assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs system, can provide a personality assessment that gives employers an idea of their work style, communication style, etc. 
    • Asking questions is also important, and is often underutilized. By asking the right questions about tough, personality based topics, you can get a strong sense of who someone really is and their potential for leadership.
    • Look for the right information if you are interested in a certain quality in a leader. If you want someone with strong motivation, look at their background. If you want someone with agility, see how they have been able to adapt throughout their career. If you want someone with knowledge, assess their vocabulary and skillset.
    • Putting candidates into different situations can also show how they might act on their feet and how they think in different scenarios. 

Avoiding Biases

  • By acknowledging biases in hiring, they can be prevented. While we have biases as humans, it is important to be aware of them and be able to identify them.
  • Incorporating other people in the hiring process and leadership building process to act as a litmus test is another way to identify and dissuade biases. 
  • Having a clear criteria for candidates is a strong safeguard against biases.
  • Being able to understand how other people process information can give you a better idea of what makes them who they are, their stories, and how to overcome biases. 

Determining Leadership Potential

  • Dr. Janson’s book provides perspective on understanding The Leadership Blueprint and what makes strong leadership potential.
  • The book gives a list of tips, sample interview questions to find leaders, personality and leadership assessments, and more. There is also a website with articles and resources. 
  • While the book is not available for sale yet, it is available for pre-sale on Amazon 

Dr. Kimberly Janson Background



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