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CEOs recognize that building and maintaining the pipeline of emergent senior management is getting more difficult. PricewaterhouseCoopers in a recent survey of CEOs discovered that they have a serious concern about the future of talent at all levels. Competition for hiring is going global, and demographics are resulting in a shrinking percentage of the workforce in the 35-to-44-year-old sweet spot for leadership development. For developed and increasingly developing economies talent shortage is an issue.

The executive search firm, Egon Zehnder, in a recent Harvard Business Review article, described how hiring, retaining and creating a leadership pipeline based on individual’s potential is needed to succeed in today’s ever-changing and complex business environment. “21st-Century Talent Spotting” by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz provides data from research that shows potential as the most important predictor of success at all levels of management, including the C-suite and the board. Zendher’s data and our experience tells us that assessment based on potential can be done with a high level of accuracy, but it is much more difficult than assessing specific skill sets and competencies based on past performance.

We are increasingly focused on helping clients identify new candidates and develop high potential leaders. Motivation, intellectual curiosity, insight, engagement and determination are all characteristics of those possessing potential. These individuals have a strong desire to do extremely well, and they also place the needs of the group above their own. They search out new experiences and knowledge. They seek out feedback and are humble enough to accept it and insightful enough to incorporate useful feedback into behaviors and work habits. They connect the dots to envision new possibilities and relate to and inspire others through emotion and logic. Their determination allows them to bounce back from adversity and not give up in difficult situations.

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