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Take a forward view to identify high potential

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Finding high-potential talent can be like the search for the Holy Grail, and before it can be found it must be identified.

The hard truth is there is no magic bullet or test to help the talent manager execute this task. Nonetheless, there is a clear path to uncover talent potential. First, talent leaders must understand future expectations. High potential in one organization may look completely different from high potential in another. Further, it does not exist in a vacuum; it must be understood in context. Success at the top is not about a generic set of skills or attributes. It is about fit, and this is tied to the strategy. This is why leaders who succeed in one organization so often fail in another, due to different strategic or cultural dynamics.

Based on the input from CEOs, top executives and board members about changes in the business environment and the strategic imperatives and resulting implications for future leaders, we`ve crafted a "leader of the future" profile. It`s important that talent managers take a future focus and think expansively about what`s changing. For example, in many businesses, there is increasing regulatory pressure, and future leaders will need to be more externally facing and be able to connect with a different set of stakeholders. In other companies, growth is happening in emerging markets, so leaders of the future must be global citizens.

When looking at the individual leader, the question is not whether someone is great at running a business unit today. Savvy organizations are desperately seeking leaders who have the potential to play big roles in the future and perhaps can run one of the major business units or sit on the executive committee. We refer to this as enterprise potential.

To differentiate enterprise potential from high potential or moderate potential and to assess potential in the context of organizational business strategy and leadership profile, organizations might consider using the five-level potential-rating system.

In talent reviews or assessments of high-potential talent, this type of framework can help provide a common language to discuss talent and a reference point to differentiate leaders with enterprise capabilities. It links directly to the leadership profile, and high-potential leaders can be assessed against criteria set for enterprise leaders of the future. Most importantly, it is designed to focus on future potential and not past performance. Although past performance is one indication of future success, it is not sufficient given the unchartered territory leaders must navigate today.
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