From Potential to Performance: Best Practices for High Potential Leaders

Just about anyone wants to be considered a high potential employee. Being designated as high potential is more than just a compliment; HiPos are treated favorably through exclusive developmental opportunities, granted exposure not afforded to others, and are promoted faster. The desire for high potential status may be certain, but that’s often where the certainty ends. What is a high potential employee? How does one earn this status? If the organization has identified its HiPos, have they told them? If they have identified them, do they know what to do to retain this status, and moreover, to develop that potential into long-term success?

The first thing that comes to mind when the word HiPo is mentioned is exceptional performance. And in fact, Harvard Business Review’s Are You a High Potential? begins with this critical component. The individual has a track record of delivering strong results throughout their tenure within the organization. Their strong performance may have begun at an individual contributor stage, but it’s likely that it continued as the individual ventured into leadership. Thus, strong performance is tied to trusting relationships and an ability to influence people on big picture topics.

But exceptional performance isn’t all that’s important; behavior matters too. In fact, as HiPos are being looked at for their future potential as leaders within the organization, behaviors potentially matter more once the individual has demonstrated they are up to the performance task. Utilizing the LEA 360™, we recently conducted a study to decipher what distinguishing behaviors leaders identified as having strong future potential exhibit. As one might expect, high potential leaders demonstrate many of the same behaviors as effective senior leaders; they are comfortable with authority, utilize their expertise to think broadly about issues, and are clear communicators. On the other hand, the research revealed room for development within behaviors that would allow them to be highly influential, rely on others more often, and demonstrate a caring for others in terms of valuing their opinion and ensuring they feel good about themselves and their work.

If you’re interested in the full set of findings, please check out the full report. Further, if you’d like a more in depth look at how HiPos play into succession planning and their developmental pathways, I encourage you to watch the recent webinar conducted by our president, Tricia Naddaff, on this topic.

About the author

Drew is MRG's resident I/O psychologist. When not at MRG, he's either with his family (most likely) or in his workshop (less likely). His stack of unread books is commendable.

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