Identifying leadership potential

The time and money that companies invest in their future leaders can be significant, so backing the wrong horse can be very costly. Our Leadership Practice Leader, Andy Clayton, explains how to enhance your decision-making processes when choosing or identifying leaders.

With many organisations citing leadership as their number one talent issue*, review processes that seek to ascertain the leaders of the future are an increasingly crucial requirement of HR.

One of the big challenges, however, is being able to accurately identify these future leaders. Where do we find them and what do they look like?  It’s imperative to understand that looking at employees’ current capabilities will only get you so far - what is required is a tool that helps identify employees’ potential.

Today’s market environment places a premium on speed, flexibility, and the ability to lead in uncertain situations. At the same time, the flattening of organisations has created an explosion in demand for leadership skills at every level.

Today, organisations need to explore new approaches to leadership development. They should aim to identify potential leaders earlier and fast-track them into leadership positions. Also important is to find ways to develop leaders who can collaborate extensively, recognise the need for new leadership skills (such as conceptual thinking), and focus on new leadership cohorts (Millennials, women, and diverse individuals). All of this requires implementing a comprehensive culture around leadership to address the leadership gap continuously and systemically.

 Deloitte’s research has established that the following four factors are the cornerstone of leadership potential:

  • Change potential – boldness and appetite for change
  • Intellectual potential – intellectual power and flexibility
  • People potential – interpersonal insight and versatility
  • Motivational potential – drive and mental toughness

In contrast to a leader’s capabilities which can be acquired through learning and experience, an individual’s leadership potential is reflected by more deep-seated factors which are harder to develop. To measure such potential, you need to assess the salient innate personal attributes that form part of an individual’s core psychological make-up.  Deloitte has tools that organisations can use to support this process as well as consultants with specific training in this area.

To be clear, everyone has potential to some degree or other. The key point is that the speed in which people can step-up and handle increased complexity will vary and it largely depends on the potency of their potential.

 *Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2014


I am passionate about helping businesses improve the quality of their leadership whether it’s through defining a leadership strategy, assessing capabilities, identifying high-fliers or upskilling staff. I am energised by working closely with clients, understanding their bespoke needs and supporting them in a manner that delivers measurable business impact.