KNOWledge/ More Marketable Leaders

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Jakarta, 25 April 2018 — Spotting other people's potential is becoming a new paradigm in leadership development. It can make you more marketable too.

Flying from Manila to Jakarta is one of my favorite journeys. It offers me the chance to catch up on my reading for work and capture new ideas in my red Moleskine, creating moments that are both enjoyable and valuable to me.

On this week's flight, I read Time 100: The Most Influential People of 2018, with short write-ups on remarkable people that Time magazine selects to inspire its readers every year. People are grouped as Pioneers, Artists, Leaders (selected with a narrow, conventional interpretation of that term), Icons, and Titans. While the selection of people reflects Time's view of who is considered influential in our world today, the stories will not disappoint readers who are curious to learn.

100 Influential People

Which stories spoke to me? I enjoyed learning how Masayoshi Son of Softbank acts as an accelerator by being super optimistic in his investments, with an early commitment to his clients for creating the result they envisage together. And I was inspired to read how Jeff Bezos of Amazon shows an unwavering focus on his audience, to ensure customer satisfaction. Finally, I learned about cricket superstar Virat Kohli's mindset who, as he bounced back from a bout of poor performance, focused on building up his fitness level as well as improving his technique.

I also liked a quote from singer and songwriter Shawn Mendes who described Amsterdam in the Netherlands as a place where "everyone seems to be just O.K. with being themselves." That reminded me of the current expectations for leaders to show up authentically as who they really are.

You might be inspired by the same or different people and their stories of influencing change. If you have not seen Time 100 yet, I recommend that you get a copy or read it online here

What I read next made even more of an impression on me.

The Harvard Business Review never disappoints to spark my imagination with its selections of stories that hold important messages for leaders today. The article that I studied in depth on this journey is by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a senior adviser at global executive search firm Egon Zehnder. Interestingly, it was already published in 2014. The choice to include it in the 2018 spring edition of HBR's OnPoint magazine reflects their strategy to compile carefully curated content on a particular topic, in this case on how leaders can make themselves more marketable.  

Here are my three takeaways from the article, which is well worth reading in its full length:

New Talent-Spotting Method

Companies around the world, and especially in emerging markets, are facing a growing challenge to find the leadership talent they need for managerial and executive positions. This is exacerbated by a need to upgrade the talent-spotting methods to meet the demands of the 21st century, which is marked by unprecedented levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Under what is now known as VUCA conditions, the earlier competency-based appraisals and reviews based on the past performance and experience of candidates are no longer reliable indicators to predict their future success. A new approach is needed, shifting from their competencies to focusing on their potential.

Says Fernández-Aráoz, "a focus on potential can improve talent spotting at every level of the organization—especially the very top."

Hallmarks of Potential

When choosing to search for talent based on potential, it is possible for managers to select and support employees based on five key indicators, which have shown to be effective in the research of Egon Zehnder. Fernández-Aráoz calls them the hallmarks of potential: motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination.

Having a suitable set of competencies for the job still matters, of course, however less than you would think from past experience. It is time, then, to look at people and talent through the new lens of potential.

In a way, managers already started doing this when recruiting staff based on attitude rather than skills, arguing that skills can be added easily, while it is difficult to control a change in someone's mindset. 

How to Grow Leaders

The third takeaway for me was that when it comes to growing leaders, the most effective method by far is through so-called stretch assignments. This corresponds perfectly with the insights I shared in other posts about the need for emerging leaders to take on challenging assignments in accordance with the 70-20-10 rule of leadership development.

In his article, Fernández-Aráoz quotes Jonathan Harvey, an HR executive at ANZ bank, on how important stretch assignments are in leadership development.  

We want well-rounded, values-focused leaders who see the world through a wide-angle lens, and the right stretch assignments are what helps people get there. 
— Jonathan Harvey

I recommend Fernandez-Aráoz's article for reading. You can find it here. Alternatively, you can watch him talk about the importance of focusing on potential rather than the competences of people in this informative video clip.      


How do you look for the potential of emerging leaders around you, and at your own potential, using the five hallmarks?

As Harvard Business Review suggests, how you answer these questions will make a difference in growing high-potential leaders to be more marketable in today's challenging conditions.