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    Sep 23, 2021    |   Camille Labrie

Leadership Potential: Industry Trends and How Can We Improve?

4 minute read

Written by Justin Deonarine, I/O Psychologist

A few weeks ago, we put forward a survey to gather more information about the state of leadership potential identification in Canada. We would like to thank the 74 organizations who participated in the survey, and helped us discover the following results.

What traits do you look for in potential leaders

A great starting point would be to examine the traits that organizations are looking for in potential leaders.

When examining the top traits that organizations look for in their future leaders, it’s interesting to note that many of these skills are those that impact how a leader works with others. Strong interpersonal skills and an authentic approach will help leaders build quality relationships with others, whether it’s with their superiors, peers or direct reports. Empathy has been touted as one of the top leadership traits needed in the modern era, and coaching is a key component needed to create the next generation of leaders. Adaptability applies not only to tasks (such as adjusting a plan as needed), but can also help a leader change their approach to interacting with others based on the demands of the individuals or scenario.

Some of the other traits that aren’t as sought after include traits that are harder to observe, but still contribute to a leader’s success. Problem solving and resiliency helps leaders navigate and cope with an ever-changing environment, especially given the day-to-day adjustments that leaders may have to consider with the current state of the world. Leaders without confidence may come across as indecisive, especially if they are impulsive or aren’t willing to make smaller decisions independently. As a result, their team may lack confidence in their leader’s capabilities. Also, an optimistic outlook can bolster a team’s morale, especially as teams may look to their leaders for direction or support in difficult times.

How effective is your organization at identifying leadership potential

42% of respondents admit that there is a need for improvement in their processes. 58% of organizations feel that they are (at least somewhat) successful in identifying their future leaders, though there are always opportunities to improve their approach.

However, while these respondents feel that their approach may be more or less successful, how are organizations actually measuring leadership potential?

What information does your organization use in its succession planning efforts

What information do you wish your organization had available for succession planning efforts

Much like results found in other research about leadership potential, this survey revealed that the majority of succession planning decisions are based on performance and recommendations from those above them. However, these are not always the best methods to assess leadership potential.

Many organizations wish they had more objective information available to them when making these important decisions. More performance data is always in high demand, while various assessments (personality, cognitive ability and situational judgement) provide a perspective that performance data will not reveal.

What challenges does your organization face in succession planning

Organizations face many challenges around succession planning. However, the greatest challenge may be that organizations are reacting to the need for succession planning, rather than actively planning for it. This time pressure can contribute to the feeling that the process isn’t working, as well as the second greatest challenge: Lack of quality information. There simply may not be enough time to collect and consider additional data, so it becomes easier to use the immediately available information (such as performance data and recommendations).

What are the common pitfalls of leaders in your organization

Leadership is a skill that we can spend our entire lives developing and never feel that we’ve truly mastered. However, there are also common challenges that many leaders face. For example, leaders in respondent organizations focus too much on day-to-day issues, do not communicate as frequently (or as clearly) as they should, and may lack self-awareness.

When a senior leader focuses too much on day-to-day issues, this often means that they have not shifted away from the mindset of their management-level role (which they may have recently mastered). As a result, the organization does not benefit from the strategic input that would be expected from someone in this role. Additionally, when the leader isn’t able to communicate the broad strategy effectively, it leaves those below them without the direction and focus that they are looking for, and the leader may be seen as unaware of their own weaknesses.

As work environments change, our current leaders are able to adapt

The traits that are being sought after for future leaders, as well as the challenges in the succession planning process, leaves a development gap for some current leaders. 40% of current leaders are seen as unable to adapt to changing work environments, which is particularly important as we are currently transitioning through global shifts in how we approach work.


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Filed under: LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT