Leader Spotting: The Four Essential Talents

What do you look for in tomorrow’s leaders? That question is crucial for the long-term health of any organization.

The only certainty about tomorrow’s business reality is that it will be “VUCA”: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. As the world changes, so do the abilities leaders will need. Yet there is a specific skill set that will match the demands of such a reality.

The hallmarks of these potential leaders are pinpointed by my friend and colleague, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz in 21 Century Talent Spotting,” the cover article of this month’s Harvard Business Review. Claudio, formerly director of research at the executive search firm Egon Zehnder International, has become the global guru on hiring, so his wisdom is all the more welcome.

What makes leaders successful today may not work so well in the future. So it’s not just the right skills, but the ability to master new ones that will count. High potentials, he finds, need:

These are the abilities that organizations need to spot today in those who will be candidates for leadership in the future. And companies will have to retain such high potential candidates, as well as build development methods that help them get even better.

Three forces, he says, will put a premium on future high potentials. Globalization means that companies will be competing for talent with others beyond their usual territory. A demographic shift signals a talent shortage: there are fewer 35-44 year-olds than the 50 and 60-somethings they will be replacing. Finally, companies have not put a premium on cultivating future leaders, and will have to upgrade their capabilities to keep and groom.

These are by no means new competencies – each has been around since companies began analyzing what talents set their star performers apart from average ones. I remember a study of highly successful entrepreneur done some years ago at the University of Southern California that showed curiosity – spreading a wide net in gathering information – was typical.

And even in the 1970s David McClelland at Harvard was teaching would-be entrepreneurs (some in countries like India and Ethiopia) how to set smart goals, get continuous feedback on their performance, and find ways to improve.

Still, Claudio’s research puts new value on these four in the near future, as signifying a mid-career employee has the potential to rise to a leadership role and excel at it.

But there’s more. These alone are insufficient for outstanding leadership.

Source : LinkedIn

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