Annual SIOP Conference – Leadership Potential is a Big Concern

Last month, I, along with some of my colleagues at EASI•Consult®, attended the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s (SIOP) Annual Conference, held this year in Chicago and attended by more than 5,000 attendees – the largest crowd in the conference’s 33-year history.

While attending a number of sessions – and talking with fellow peers from numerous organizations and government agencies – one theme seemed to dominate much of the discussion – leadership potential.

It makes sense. A growing economy, coupled with the rapid pace at which baby boomers are retiring (approximately 10,000 Americans turn age 65 every day), means companies are having to identify their future leaders now. But that process is not as easy as it once was.

Traditionally, organizations identified their potential leaders by conducting an annual meeting among their senior leadership teams. By looking at supervisors and managers who were the higher performers, and then discussing each person’s potential to move into higher-level positions, a viable list of “high potentials” could be assembled. Oftentimes, a metric, such as the “9-box,” was used to facilitate this discussion.

After a person was identified as a high potential within the company, he or she was often given specific assignments, provided key opportunities, and/or was placed into a job that would test his or her capabilities.

The odd thing was, many companies didn’t inform these people that they had been identified as high-potential. Rather, the senior leaders simply observed how they performed throughout the year. The following year, the process began again. Looking back, it is rather amazing that such an approach was effective at all.

Fortunately, we’ve progressed over the years. However, while attending SIOP, I was surprised at how many organizations are still struggling with leadership potential. And it seems that many companies still don’t fully realize the complexity of a concept like potential, especially leadership potential.

In a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Seymour Adler, and Robert B. Kaiser outlined a number of questions that often surrounded the identification of future leaders, everything from “What are the key qualities of an effective leader?” to “Are leaders born or made?” and “Does gender matter?”.

Overall, several key findings were highlighted:

  • Context is important. An effective leader in one company may not be effective in a different company.
  • Most effective leaders demonstrate similar characteristics and capabilities, including certain personality traits, higher levels of cognitive ability, and a strong sense of integrity and emotional intelligence.
  • Other factors, such as gender and background, do not seem to be relevant.

However, in today’s faster-paced and continuously-changing world, these basic characteristics are crucial… but they are not enough. Tomorrow’s leaders must possess a complex set of capabilities.

Four factors are now essential to be an effective leader in the future:

  • Context still matters, so any leadership potential effort must incorporate the organization’s business, culture, values, etc.
  • Key personality characteristics are important.
  • Strategically-oriented cognitive ability is essential.
  • And – this is critical – agility/learning agility is a must.

Over the past several years, EASI•Consult has partnered with Dr. W. Warner Burke at Columbia University in the development and validation of an accurate and comprehensive measure of Learning Agility, the Burke Learning Agility Inventory®. By incorporating this measure with the other three keys to leadership potential, EASI•Consult has been able to design the Leadership Potential Quotient® (LPQ®). In fact, you might call it the “Full Circle of Leadership Potential.”

The LPQ® begins by examining the company’s context and then calculating a Success Profile for leaders at each level. Then, all three areas – personality, cognitive/strategic and learning agility – are assessed and summarized for each person being viewed as a high potential candidate.

By utilizing the Success Profile for a specific level (or levels) within the designated organization, context is fully incorporated into this process. And, unlike many other approaches, all three essential aspects of leadership potential are examined in the LPQ.

While talking about the success of this new approach at SIOP, it was encouraging to learn how many colleagues will be adopting it within their organizations. Backed by years of research and bolstered by many successful applications, the LPQ is a process that meets the demands modern-day companies are facing in terms of identifying and developing their future leaders.

Joseph Gier, Ph.D. is Vice President – Consulting Services at EASI•Consult® and is a licensed Psychologist. EASI•Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult has incorporated the Burke LAI® into various solutions including identification of future leaders, leadership and individual assessment, leadership development, executive coaching, professional-level individual contributor assessment, and 360-degree feedback. EASI•Consult also offers online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.

EASI·Consult® is the registered name for Expert Advocates in Selection International, LLC.
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