How to uncover tomorrow’s leaders for success

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The majority of companies have programmes in place to develop employees to become tomorrow’s leaders, however if the organisations selection process is faulted, no amount of training will produce the leaders they are looking for.

In this article, I suggest three questions that all leaders should ask themselves, if their current processes aren’t delivering as they had hoped, in order to unlock the hidden talent and uncover the right people for tomorrow’s success.

What is ‘talent’ or ‘high potential’?

In the most general sense, talent is described as the ability to do a task exceptionally well with very little instruction or guidance. Companies may use this term to describe the employees with high potential, however this then creates insinuations that all other staff are without talent, which should not be the case.

Instead, businesses need to go back to the drawing board and assess members of staff on more than simply performance. Leaders should look at a person’s ability to develop and adapt to the set of competencies outlined for future success. This is a more general way of looking at an employee’s success and thus the phrase ‘high potential’ is possibly more appropriate.

What competencies should you be looking for?

I believe that employees with high potential will have an excellent current performance coupled with the potential to develop and grow faster than the average member of staff. Ideal competencies should include a range of job-specific, knowledge based, behavioural and transferable skills. Most importantly is a high level of learning agility which will allow the member of staff to quickly learn and apply new concepts and skills.

Aspiration. Only those with a strong desire to grow and develop in their careers are likely to be high potentials as they need a sense of direction to succeed in talent development programmes.

The final thing that I believe is essential to create a leader for tomorrow is clear commitment. Even if they have the idealised competencies and high aspirations, without motivation and commitment, the employee is unlikely to develop. The member of staff will need to be able to place themselves in uncomfortable situations, feel happy changing business departments or geographic location to truly succeed.

Beyond these, any high potential will need a selection of competencies that are specific to the company, to help meet the goals and vision of the business. Technology and culture are changing more rapidly than ever before, and so the tasks and roles that need to be undertaken are likely to be quite different in just a couple of years.

How do you asses these competencies?

Another common fault with businesses who are trying to identify talent and high potential is that they simple observe a person’s performance and progress. Although this does form a large part of the assessment, the most vital thing to do it actually talk to them. Managers should have an informal conversation exploring the employees career aspirations and visions as this allows both parties to visually map out the future in a number of different dimensions as well as identify opportunities which will allow the member of staff to ‘get there’.

Most of all, it is vital for all managers and leaders within the organisation to clearly know and understand what high potential (or talent) is and how it is easily spotted and assessed within the specific company. Laying down these basic understandings will lead the way to identify the leaders for tomorrows success.

About Olivier Herold

Olivier joined The Oxford Group in 2009 and since 2016 he has been CEO and is leading the global expansion of the company. The Oxford Group is a people-focused business driven by a passion for helping organisations get the best from their people, unleash hidden talent and successfully manage their business through times of change. Since 2015 The Oxford Group has been part of The City & Guilds Group, a global leader in skills development, which enables people and organisations develop their skills for personal and economic growth. For more information, visit

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