First the bad news: 85 percent of companies report an urgent need to develop their leadership pipeline. But only 40 percent believe their current pool of high-potentials can meet their future business needs.
The brutal truth of what to look for in your high potential leaders. This will make or break your organization.
1. They have to have exceptional listening skills.
Leaders who master the art of listening will ask questions, search conversations for depth, meaning, and have the other person's needs in mind. So as you identify future leaders, also look for servant leaders who have a keen interest in listening to help others develop and be the best they can be.
2. They have to trust in the people they lead.
Leadership guru and author Stephen M.R. Covey says that a team with high trust will produce results faster and at lower cost. And while conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first, it has been found that leaders in healthy organizations are willing to give trust to their followers first, and they give it as a gift even before it's earned.
3. They have to be good coaches.
Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, describes in her book Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others that coaching is one of six principles of how their leadership teams work together. Bachelder develops her leaders to be coaches--a key competency she says they want to be "best in class." This correlate well to most research about Millennials strong preference for leaders who will coach them to success.
4. They should know how to cast a vision and promote the big picture.
In top-down hierarchies, bosses wield positional authority control to move people to carry out the vision. In today's social economy, your high-potentials should have the aptitude to cast a company vision and enroll their followers to express their voice as co-creators and co-contributors to the vision.
5. They need to show resilience in the face of adversity.
Thomas Edison once said, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." Pay attention to your high potentials who bounce back from setbacks by self-diagnosing why the same issues keep coming up over and over. They will recover and be open to change much quicker--changing what's holding them back, and changing what no longer serves the company.
6. They fully acknowledge that they can't do it alone.
Don't look for Lone Rangers because hubris will often dictate their actions. Your high potential leader knows he can't do it alone. Being surrounded with support and talent, and engaging the team in pursuing the cause sets this leader apart.
7. They lead by example or they don't lead at all.
Leaders have to keep their promises and become role models for the values and actions they espouse. You can't ask others to do something you aren't willing to do yourself. This is the type of person you want in the trenches pointing the way. Someone who will also admit mistakes and learn from them.
Lets suppose you've identified your potential future leaders. Your best strategy moving forward is to keep them growing, help them see their unique skills, and bring out their strengths and talents so they can accelerate their own development.