Congratulations! You’re a High Performer – But Are You a High Potential Leader?

“Leadership is the challenge to be something more than average.”

— Jim Rohn, entrepreneur and motivational speaker

You’re a high performer. You know it because it says so right there on your most recent performance appraisal. You often exceed expectations and have a track record of getting things done. You are proud of your accomplishments… and you should be. But something has been bugging you. If you’re doing such a great job… why haven’t you been added to your company’s list of high-potential leaders? 

First, give your company a bit of a break. Identifying and developing future leaders is pretty elusive for most companies. In fact, few companies have a standardized practice in place that is refined in objectively identifying future leaders and consistent in their leadership development. 

The good news is that more companies are understanding the value of investing in their future leader processes and programs. In fact, in a Conference Board survey, CEOs reported that attracting and retaining talent is one of their biggest internal worries for 2019. It listed the development of the next generation of leaders as the 3rd biggest internal concern for CEOs globally.  If you search the internet you will find similar surveys where identifying and developing future leaders is a real concern for leadership throughout the world.  If your company hasn’t yet made this investment, believe me, it will. 

Your company may already have a solid process in place to identify and develop future leaders. So why haven’t they identified you?  Here are some considerations to keep in mind…

High performing employees make up about 20% of a company’s employees. But not all high performing employees can be selected as high potential leaders. In fact, most companies identify less than 5% of all of their employees as high potential leaders. Not a large percentage, but don’t let that stop you if you believe that you have the ability to lead at higher levels. 

You may not be on your leadership’s radar as a high potential. Why?  Maybe you’re fairly new to your position and more time is needed to see how you handle different situations.  Perhaps you’ve been in your role for some time, but leadership has not observed your practice of the decisions and behaviors they want to see in their future leaders. It’s also possible that your leadership doesn’t know that you aspire to higher levels of leadership.

So what can you do? First, be sure to have conversations with your supervisor so they know your aspirations to lead and to make sure you understand your company’s expectations of future leaders. 

Next, take ownership for your future as a leader.  I have two practices that if proactively applied, will help you have a better chance in moving from a high performing employee to a high potential future leader. 

The first practice is PATIENCE.  I know this isn’t the popular option for a lot of people, but if you like your job, you work for a company that aligns with your values, and you are around people you care about – patience is key. I have witnessed many opportunities being created when others are impatient and move on to greener pastures. 

The next practice is PRESENCE. It’s important to recognize and manage your presence as a leader throughout every day.  This not only includes the measurable aspects of leadership like supervising, budgeting, decision making, and managing projects. It’s also about your intangible skills like self-awareness, integrity, communication, courtesy, and responsibility, and your social skills.

Recommended actions you can take…

If you’re not sure your supervisor is aware of your leadership aspirations – have the conversation. Be careful not to make the entire conversation about you.  At the end of the conversation, make sure your supervisor understands your commitment to being patient and doing the work required to move to higher levels of leadership. 

Do some soul searching. Ask yourself why you want to be on the high potential leader list – and be honest with yourself. Also understand that being a high potential leader can be a huge time commitment both during and outside of normal working hours. I have a ton of respect for leaders who have had the opportunity to be on a high potential future leader list but made a thoughtful decision that now is not the best time for them.  I have even more respect for leadership in companies who understand and keep some leaders on the short list for future possibilities. 

Reflect and be proactive in your practice of PATIENCE AND PRESENCE.  Believe me, your company leadership will start to notice.  Even if you aren’t identified as a high potential future leader, you and others who report to you will all benefit from your growth as a leader.  

Recommended resources if interested in learning more…

In 2019, CEOs are Most Concerned About Talent and a Recession – THE CONFERENCE BOARD Press Release

Be a Patient of Patience – CHARGEUP Website Article

12 Habits for Building Leadership Presence – LOLLY DASKAL Website Article

11 Steps to Help Develop Your Leadership Presence – AMERICAN EXPRESS BUSINESS Website Article

14 Tips For Developing “Leadership Presence” – The Glasshammer Website Article

Much of my practice is dedicated to coaching high potential leaders. Please contact me if you would like to have a courtesy 30-minute conversation around your growth as a leader.

Here’s to your leadership journey!

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