Traps to Avoid When Evaluating Leadership Potential

From DDI’s Finding Future Perfect Senior Leaders: Spotting Executive Potential

1. Focus on current performance.

2. Reliance on multirater (360°) feedback, which doesn’t predict potential, but only current competencies.

3. Inconsistent criteria, vision, or expectations.
Three out of four companies admit that they lack clear criteria for what actually determines potential. Or they haven’t arrived at a consistent vision of what their future culture should be (and thus how future leaders would fit into this vision), or what expectations for their future leaders are.

4. Dependence on too few, unchallenged perspectives.
An example: With only 16 managers in our Acceleration Pool, each slot becomes highly important. So when it became clear we’d made a mistake in one
instance after allowing someone into the pool when only one executive knew him well, we learned an important lesson.

5. Equal representation, current affiliation bias.
Giving in to political pressure for equal representation by department rather than truly identifying the best people.

6. Emergence of “strength”-based models.
Fine for targeting specific roles, perhaps, but too narrow as a forecast of general management potential. Focusing only on strengths leads to missed potential and wasted talent; it also fails to identify derailers that might be camouflaged under a seemingly solid profile.

7. Poor differentiation between potential and diagnostic assessments.

8. Confusing diagnostic assessments of a manager’s competencies with an “investment choice” based on past performance plus future potential

And I’ll add my own:

Over reliance on a single, “silver bullet” test. Assessments can be part of an assessment process – IQ for intelligence, a 360 assessment against potential criteria, a properly benchmarked behavioral or motivational preference inventory, behavioral based interviews, and a variety of simulations all can be parts of a valid and reliable potential assessment process. But if there was a single leadership potential assessment test, everyone would be using it and there wouldn’t be a 50% or more CEO failure rate.