A mission-critical challenge for HR specialists, senior executives, and CEOs worldwide is to identify and develop high-potential and emerging leaders.


The leaders of the future are already among your employees.

Although hamstrung by the ongoing pandemic, the global economy has been creating unprecedented leadership opportunities, turning leadership into a sought-after and scarce resource.

Identifying high-potential employees and developing them into full-fledged leaders is not only the solution to this conundrum. It is also the raison d’être of leadership development – my profession.

This issue carries such weight for me that I have made it the central premise of my most recent books, ‘Intelligent Leadership’ and ‘Culture Transformation’.

In this post, I am briefing you on ten traits of high-potential employees to help you spot star-caliber players already on your roster.


10 Traits of High-Potential Leaders

  • Ability.
  • Social skills and emotional intelligence.
  • Resilience.
  • The capability to develop and grow.
  • Drive. Passion for the work.
  • Courage.
  • Maturity.
  • Coaching skills.
  • Interest in company goals.
  • A cocktail of character elements, including gratitude, modesty, honesty, diligence, and loyalty.


1. Ability

The ability to complete the job is only half of the picture. IQ is the metric that best describes the ability of your employee to excel at a higher level in the future. Your prospect will also need imagination and vision to succeed.


2. Emotional Intelligence

I have always viewed emotional intelligence as one of the most important inner-core leadership competencies. Emotional intelligence lends your report the ability to manage him/herself as well as others. Emotional intelligence is an early predictor of leadership potential.


3. Resilience

Resilient leaders do not give in to despair. Even as they fail, they already plot ways to try again, using the failure itself as a stepping stone. Difficult to measure, resilience is fairly easy to spot.


Resilient people digest failure, diagnose, explore, and try again. 


4. The Capability to Develop and Grow

Give potential precedence over performance. While important, performance alone does not describe your prospect’s ability to develop and grow.


5. Drive

Drive is the not-so-secret ingredient needed to translate social skills and ability to succeed. We can define it as the will to do what is needed to get the best possible work done.


6. Courage

In my view, courage is a must-have trait for an employee with high leadership potential. The ability and willingness to swim against the tide if the interests of the company require it is indispensable.


7. Maturity

Like courage, maturity is also an indispensable trait. As I’ve stated in my ‘Intelligent Leadership’, “most unleaderlike behavior is just plain immaturity.”


8. Coaching Skills

Your prospect’s ability to coach and mentor is an essential leadership competence. Employees naturally gravitate toward leaders who can mentor them to success.


9. Interest in Company Goals

Aligning the interests of the employees with those of the management and shareholders is a logical objective. People, who are invested in the company and see its goals as their own, are more motivated and driven. Some employees need incentives like stock options to develop this interest. Others are naturally inclined to cherish being part of something bigger. Those are your high leadership-potential employees.


10. A Blend of Character Elements

Finally, your company’s leaders need to possess the right blend of character traits that include elements such as gratitude, modesty, honesty, diligence, and loyalty to ensure that they can lead with passion and compassion.

Investing in the development of high-potential leaders carries high ROI. That is the reason why you need to put in the work to properly identify such leaders and to develop them to their full potential.



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