High Potential Leaders


“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan

The more I search for talent, and help my clients do the same, the more I realize how rare high-performing leaders are. This post is more about musing on that topic rather than having an answer…I know the context of the professional role and the company contribute to people being perceived as doing a great job…but when we talk “High Potential Leader” (HIPO) status - that is a league of people unto themselves.

I suggest that “contextual understanding” is the most important attribute of a HIPO Leader. It is a broad enough term that I would expect it could be used in tactical and leadership (people) sense. Someone with this understanding would know when to listen and when to take action, would know when to ask rather than when to tell, would know to scan the environment (like a golfer looks around the green for high and low points before making a putt).

I run into folks who confuse results and potential. I get confused by this sometimes too! There is a great tool used by many companies – the 9 box model – that differentiates results and (attributes that define) potential well.

A great way to solidify if your guess on your HIPO candidates is right is to give them stretch assignments. Verify your hypothesis, it will be worth it…

Also, HIPOs can be misplaced by management in key roles. To avoid this, also assess HIPOs values and natural strengths. Tools such as Strengthscope® (www.strengthscope.com) are available.

Everyone reading this, please contribute your comments. What attribute do you think is most critical to identify, and how do you find it in your leadership candidates?

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