But how do you know if you’re one of those high-potential leaders?
I spent 25 years at leadership development powerhouse Procter & Gamble, known for being the company that produces more CEOs (by a long shot) than any other company. P&G has its own view of what constitutes the highest-potential leaders, so I blend that knowledge with my own experience being on the front lines of leadership at P&G and from leading recruiting teams to identify top talent.
So consider what follows a checklist to help you see where you stand or to know what to look for when hiring or seeking to promote future leaders. How many of these garner an emphatic “Yes”?
1. “I’m quick to learn, quicker to adapt.”
There’s a definite correlation between those who learn the fastest and those hungry to learn fast. Yes, having a solid microprocessor upstairs helps, but anyone can bring a desire to learn to the table.
From there, it’s the energy for and ability to pay attention to your surroundings, your competition, your boss, and your co-workers, and to pick up on cues of what to do and what to act on. It also means learning quickly from your mistakes and not repeating them.
Along with learning comes adapting. The highest-potential leaders can turn on a dime when faced with new data or changing circumstances.
2. “I’m wired for winning, intent on improving.”
Meaning, if you aren’t winning, it almost hurts. You have a visible passion to beat competitors and crush goals that rubs off on everyone around you (without rubbing them the wrong way).
At the same time, you realize winning isn’t static, it requires you doing your part to keep improving. Of all the traits that stuck out to me in interviews with high-potential candidates, the continual improvement mentality was among the most telling. It’s almost a precursor for high-potential leaders; how can you be high-potential if you’re not hungry to maximize your own potential?
3. “I’m a boss at influencing the boss.”
The ability to lead the boss’s thinking–and any stakeholder’s for that matter–is a key hallmark of rising star leaders. And the very best don’t use their position’s power or politics to effectively and efficiently influence those around them. They understand when to use data versus gut, and when to employ EQ to get emotions working to their favor (without being manipulative).
4. “I have a powerful personal presence.”
High-potential leaders are seen as inspiring through their words and actions. They act with high amounts of empathy without being “soft,” show great confidence while still showing vulnerability, and get people wanting to follow them while still building followers’ self-confidence.
Of all the high-potential, telltale signs, this one is the most “you know it when you see it.” If you’re thinking this one doesn’t quite fit you, you can definitely build your presence by focusing on two things: Work on your self-confidence (and projecting it) and commit to a spirit of servitude.
5. “I’m as comfortable envisioning as I am executing.”
I’ve seen plenty of people skilled at execution but not so great at going up the ladder to create a vision. And I’ve seen plenty that created compelling visions but didn’t know how to connect the dots between the vision and the executional work it takes to make the vision a reality.
The best leaders are skilled at both and have a passion for both. And they know when they need to play at each level.
6. “I’m a deft decision maker.”
Being good at making decisions starts with being decisive. High-potential leaders use a combination of data and gut without sliding into analysis paralysis. They enroll informed points of view to help form their decisions and know enough when they don’t know enough to decide. They stay open to new information but are able to quickly sort through complexity and ambiguity, often making connections others don’t.
I always viewed this as leaders who just always seemed to know what to do. No matter the situation, they made decisions that were sound and even savvy.
So if you find yourself nodding at these points, you might get the head nod for a big promotion (or two or three) in the near future.