One of the most important tasks for any organization is to identify and develop the next generation of leaders. Leadership development is not only a strategic investment in the future but also a way to enhance the performance, engagement, and retention of high-potential employees.
But how do you select the right candidates for leadership development? What criteria should you use to evaluate their potential and readiness? And how do you ensure that your selection process is fair, transparent, and aligned with your organizational goals?
In this blog post, we will explore some best practices and tips for selecting potential leaders for development, based on our experience and research in the field of talent management.
1. Define your leadership competencies and expectations.
Before you start looking for potential leaders, you need to have a clear idea of what kind of leaders you want and need in your organization. What are the core competencies and behaviors that define effective leadership in your context? What are the specific skills and knowledge that your future leaders will need to succeed in their roles? And what are the performance standards and expectations that you have for them?
By defining your leadership competencies and expectations, you will be able to create a consistent framework for assessing and developing potential leaders across your organization. You will also be able to communicate clearly to your employees what it takes to become a leader and how they can demonstrate their potential.
2. Use multiple sources and methods of assessment.
Selecting potential leaders is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process that requires multiple sources and methods of assessment. You cannot rely on a single tool or criterion to identify potential leaders, as each one has its own strengths and limitations. For example, performance appraisals can provide valuable feedback on past results, but they may not capture the full range of skills and behaviors that are relevant to leadership. Similarly, personality tests can reveal some aspects of an individual's preferences and motivations, but they may not reflect how they actually behave in different situations.
To get a more comprehensive and accurate picture of potential leaders, you should use a combination of different assessment methods, such as:
- Self-assessments: These are tools that allow individuals to rate themselves on various dimensions of leadership potential, such as their strengths, weaknesses, interests, values, and goals. Self-assessments can help individuals gain self-awareness and insight into their own development needs and aspirations.
- Manager assessments: These are tools that allow managers to rate their direct reports on various dimensions of leadership potential, such as their performance, potential, readiness, and fit. Manager assessments can help managers provide constructive feedback and guidance to their employees and identify high-potential candidates for development.
- Peer assessments: These are tools that allow peers to rate each other on various dimensions of leadership potential, such as their collaboration, communication, influence, and innovation. Peer assessments can help peers provide honest and candid feedback and support to each other and recognize the contributions of their colleagues.
- 360-degree feedback: This is a tool that collects feedback from multiple sources, such as managers, peers, subordinates, customers, and stakeholders, on various dimensions of leadership potential, such as their competencies, behaviors, and impact. 360-degree feedback can help individuals get a holistic view of their strengths and areas for improvement from different perspectives.
- Simulations: These are tools that create realistic scenarios that require individuals to demonstrate their leadership skills and behaviors in action. Simulations can help individuals test their abilities and learn from their experiences in a safe and controlled environment.
- Interviews: These are tools that involve structured conversations between individuals and assessors on various topics related to leadership potential, such as their career history, achievements, challenges, motivations, and aspirations. Interviews can help assessors probe deeper into the individual's personality, values, and fit with the organization.
By using multiple sources and methods of assessment, you will be able to collect more reliable and valid data on potential leaders, reduce bias and errors in judgment, and increase the credibility and acceptance of your selection process.
3. Involve multiple stakeholders in the selection process.
Selecting potential leaders is not only a matter of assessment but also of decision-making. You need to decide who among your pool of candidates deserves to be selected for leadership development. This decision should not be made by a single person or group, but by involving multiple stakeholders who have a stake in the outcome.
Some of the key stakeholders who should be involved in the selection process are:
- Senior leaders: These are the people who set the vision and direction for the organization and who have the ultimate responsibility for its success. Senior leaders should be involved in defining the leadership competencies and expectations, endorsing the selection criteria and process, reviewing the assessment results, approving the final selection decisions, and sponsoring and supporting the development initiatives.
- HR professionals: These are the people who design and implement the talent management systems and processes that support the organization's goals. HR professionals should be involved in conducting the assessments, facilitating the feedback sessions, analyzing the data, making recommendations based on the evidence, and providing the necessary resources and tools for the development activities.
- Line managers: These are the people who manage the day-to-day operations and performance of the employees and who have direct knowledge and experience of their potential and readiness. Line managers should be involved in nominating and assessing their direct reports, providing ongoing feedback and coaching, and creating opportunities for learning and growth.
- Potential leaders: These are the people who are being assessed and selected for leadership development and who have the most interest and motivation in their own career advancement. Potential leaders should be involved in completing the self-assessments, participating in the simulations and interviews, receiving and acting on the feedback, and expressing their preferences and expectations for the development programs.
By involving multiple stakeholders in the selection process, you will be able to ensure that your decisions are based on diverse and balanced inputs, that your decisions are aligned with your organizational strategy and culture, and that your decisions are communicated and implemented effectively.
4. Provide feedback and follow-up to potential leaders.
Selecting potential leaders is not the end of the process, but the beginning of a journey. You need to provide feedback and follow up to potential leaders to help them understand their strengths and areas for improvement, to motivate them to pursue their development goals and to monitor their progress and results.
Some of the ways you can provide feedback and follow-up to potential leaders are:
- Feedback sessions: These are meetings where you share the assessment results with potential leaders, explain the rationale behind your selection decisions, highlight their strengths and areas for improvement, and discuss their development plans and actions. Feedback sessions can help potential leaders gain clarity and confidence about their potential and readiness, accept and appreciate your decisions, and commit to their development goals.
- Development plans: These are documents that outline the specific objectives, actions, resources, timelines and measures for potential leaders' development. Development plans can help potential leaders translate their feedback into concrete steps, focus on their priorities, access the necessary support, track their progress, and evaluate their outcomes.
- Development programs: These are initiatives that provide potential leaders with structured learning opportunities, such as training courses, coaching sessions, mentoring relationships, action learning projects, job rotations, or stretch assignments. Development programs can help potential leaders acquire new knowledge, skills, and behaviors, apply them in real situations, learn from their successes and failures, and demonstrate their improvement.
- Follow-up sessions: These are meetings where you review the development plans and programs with potential leaders, provide additional feedback and guidance, recognize their achievements, address their challenges, and adjust their plans as needed. Follow-up sessions can help potential leaders sustain their momentum, overcome obstacles, celebrate milestones, and achieve results.
By providing feedback and follow-up to potential leaders, you will be able to foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement in your organization, enhance the engagement and retention of your high-potential employees, and prepare them for future leadership roles.
Selecting potential leaders for development is a critical task that requires careful planning, execution, and evaluation. By following these best practices and tips, you will be able to identify and develop the next generation of leaders who will drive your organization's success.