Cindy Wahler is a leadership consultant specializing in executive coaching and talent management.
You have been placed on a high potential list. Congratulations. Depending upon your organization’s philosophy regarding succession planning, you may or may not be aware that you are on this list.
Many organizations believe that this is a great incentive and a tremendous motivator. Is there no better reward than advising your emerging leaders that they have potential to move on to roles of greater import?
Well, some organizations keep this list secret and sacred. They worry that employees will be led to believe that they are “guaranteed” a promotion or that this will go to their heads when, in fact, many variables are at play as to when and which employees are promoted or given roles with greater scope.
When organizations communicate correctly what it means to be a high potential, none of these talented leaders view this as a slam dunk. They recognize that it depends upon their ongoing performance, required future skill set, organizational priorities and overall sponsorship.
If you are a leader who has been fortunate enough to be informed that you have been identified as a next-generation leader, you will want to maximize your potential. There are steps you can take to increase the likelihood that you are hand-picked for the next big assignment or to lead a major transformation.
Leveraging these skills will help keep you in the spotlight and be perceived as a leader who stands out.
1. Drive innovation – It is incumbent upon you to find unique ways to solve business challenges. You must take risks and be prepared to have a strong voice. Ask yourself if you have the courage to debate with senior leaders. Standing tall requires you to take a path that may be contrary to popular belief or historical practice.
2. Export talent – Identifying talent and cultivating strong team members are signs that you can foster the skills that are required to advance a project or transform a business. Members of your team should have career aspirations that you as a leader helped develop. If you are an exporter of talent, that basically means your team members can be positioned for success anywhere within the organization.
3. Have a strong personal brand – What do you want to be known for? When you leave the room, how would your peers describe your leadership? If you are tactical and get it done, there must be something unique about your contribution. Think hard about leaders you admire. The gifted ones are not accidental icons. They have been strategic about their personal brand and are known for more than being just hard working.
4. Build relationship currency – If you have a boss that supports you, that matters. However, what no one tells us is that your boss is one voice and just one voice. Calibration meetings require a group of influential leaders to support your ability to advance to the next level. This means you must actively cultivate relationships. Whoever told you that your work will speak for itself was sadly misinformed. Senior leaders must clearly know what value you add.
A common error for high potentials is to take their foot off the gas pedal, keep doing what they always have been doing or beginning to display hubris. When this happens, you run the risk of slowly becoming either invisible or sucking the energy out of the room. Both leadership styles become potential liabilities and will take you off your path as an emerging leader.
Superstars were once high potentials. They now stand out from the crowd.
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