Which potential factors speak for higher leadership success?
An age-old dispute has dominated leadership research since the last century:
Can successful leadership be learned or are successful leaders born that way?
The great-man theory or trait theories versus the rest of the leadership theories. We humans tend to ask such dichotomous questions and make such decisions. But the world is usually more differentiated and not just black or white.
Talent or training diligence?
Our common sense lets us see from completely different realities of life, such as school or various educational institutions, what the interaction of talent and learning (knowledge and training diligence) does.
Given the following (very simplified) variations, consider which person you would think is most likely to succeed later in life in a science discipline:
- A person with great talent but little encouragement (learning + training)
- A person with little talent but strong promotion (learning + training)
- A person with great talent and strong promotion (learning + training).
- A person with little talent and little support (learning + training)
Person 3. Right? Or not? The vote for second place will probably be less clear-cut. Can a person make up for a lack of talent with better/intensive learning and training?
At this point at the latest, a third variable comes into play: motivation. We know (at least) from numerous hero stories that there are people who have made it far under poor conditions and with little encouragement because of high motivation and discipline. Whether the talent was also low or rather not recognized, that can often no longer be measured in retrospect.
Many companies now have more or less sophisticated competency models and systems for measuring and reviewing relevant competencies. A competent leader is undoubtedly predestined for success, even if there is by no means an automatic correlation.
Every company that wants to be on the market tomorrow invests in the development of leadership skills today. After all, most business leaders have recognized that good leadership is a critical success factor for business results. But are they investing in the right talent? Is talent falling through the cracks? Don’t we sometimes go to great lengths to turn the best technical experts into good managers, even though other competencies are required here?
How is it decided who will be (further) developed into the nextleader?
In our consulting practice, we repeatedly find that applicants for a management position that is to be filled in the short term are often selected using the same methods as junior employees who are actually to be developed in the long term(s). And then competencies and potentials are often lumped together and no longer neatly differentiated.
Competence or potential diagnostics
Actually, it is clear: If I am looking for a competent manager for a current management job, I need a competence diagnosis in order to make an optimal decision. But if I am looking for the best talents for a talent pool for later management tasks, then competence diagnostics reaches its limits. After all, how can even the best talent competently (i.e., confidently, consciously, and repeatably) handle difficult leadership situations without knowledge, training, and experience?
So what about potential models in companies? I have encountered such models rather less.
Therefore, it is time to implement sensible and action-based potential diagnostics in the entire trend topic of “talent management”. This also offers the chance to discover hidden and less visible talents. What a tragedy when, with the shortage of good leaders, high potentials go to waste and other individuals who may be more forceful or have the right patrons are sent to trainings but later fail to put their supposed horsepower on the road.
If one looks at the science, research and literature, one is surprised at how few substantial research results can be found on the topic of leadership potential. Again, it is encouraging that the few viable approaches come to very similar conclusions. Only the terms for similar factors sometimes differ more.
Therefore, in the last few months we have sifted through and evaluated a large amount of material as part of a meta-study or analysis, and from this we have identified six relevant potential factors for the nextleader:
- Cognitive intelligence
- Relationship Intelligence
- Growth orientation
- Mobilization energy
If these potential factors are present in a person, the probability of competent and thus successful leadership is much higher. Above all, these factors can be determined independently of previous management experience and thus create better comparability as well as fairness in the identification of talent.
The 6 potential factors are initially still headings and are currently being defined in more detail with relevant core aspects (sub-factors). In addition, Strametz [&] Associates will be launching a system of potential analysis in a few weeks’ time, which will also make it possible to identify leadership potential in practice and help companies to discover the nextleader in order to promote him or her in a correspondingly targeted manner. We hope, however, that the talented people with less nextleader potential in the companies will be offered alternative but equally attractive career paths.