Leadership: How To Assess, Identify And Develop It

How do we assess, identify and develop leadership potential is a question that every organisation should know the answer to, but rarely do!

So what can you do to ensure that you effectively identify and develop leadership potential? Firstly, I would say think long and hard about how serious you are. Here's just a snippet of what you need to consider:

Senior Leadership Commitment

The senior leadership team must be committed to developing leadership potential and have enough conviction to ensure that the process is cascaded down throughout the entire organisation.

The senior leadership team should appoint a Leadership Champion to develop the leadership strategy and ensure that it properly implemented and managed. The Leadership Champion should act as a conduit to to the senior leadership team, who should all be members of the leadership development council

The Leadership Strategy

Not unlike any strategy document, the leadership strategy is a high-level, mid-to-long term sequence of actions that are designed to meet measurable objectives, including:

  • Review of the business strategy and identification of critical success factors
  • How many leaders are needed now, and over the next 5 to 10 years?
  • What performance competencies (behavioral attributes) should leaders possess?
  • What technical competencies (knowledge and skills) should leaders possess?
  • How will leaders be identified and developed?

Special Note: The leadership plan must be aligned to the strategic needs of the business now and over the next 5 to 10 years. It should also be aligned to the employees growth within the organisation.

Leadership Profiling

What makes a successful leader? Unfortunately there is no magical formula or predefined list of performance and technical competencies. A successful leader in one organisation won't necessarily be successful in another. This is why leadership profiling is critical to the entire process.

Leadership profiling is the process of assessing and quantifying the performance and technical competencies displayed by an organisations top performers. This information is then distilled into a list of 5 to 10 core competencies for every leadership function. It's important to stress that core competencies will differ from one job function to another.

  • Technical Competencies: Specific knowledge and skills required to do the job.
  • Performance Competencies: Personal characteristics required to produce results.
Assessment Centres

Once core competencies for every leadership function have been identified, assessment centers must be developed for specific job functions to identify whether current or future employees have leadership potential.

It's important to note that an assessment centre is not a room or a building, it is a process of assessment, and usually involves a series of:

  • Business Simulations: Develop business acumen in the areas of strategic thinking, financial analysis, operations, teamwork and leadership.
  • Structured Behavioural Interviews: Greatly enhance the quality and honesty of information gathered from employment interviews.
  • Psychometric Testing: Measure objectively a person's ability, or certain aspects of their personality.
  • Psychometric tests are structured tests, taken in exam-like conditions, which aim to measure objectively a person's ability, or certain aspects of their personality.
  • Ability Tests: Designed to assess logical reasoning or thinking performance.
  • 360 Degree Feedback: Provide confidential and anonymous feedback on individual performance. They are used to heighten self awareness; understanding ourselves, how we interact with others, and the impact we have on those around us.

Assessment centers are particularly useful for predicting how well a person will perform on the job.

Development Centres

Development centers are used in succession planning as they provide an employees with an objective view of what they do well and where they need help.

Not unlike an assessment centre, a development centre is not a room or a building, it is a process of developing individuals, and often involves a series of classroom-based training programs, blended learning programs and coaching sessions.

  • Identify Development Areas: What are the primary and secondary developmental areas. These should be based on performance and technical competencies.
  • Identify & Segment: Who needs developing and in what areas.
  • Content Development: What training material needs to be developed and who will be responsible for developing it.
  • Delivery: Who will deliver training and coaching. What learning platform will be used to manage the process.
  • Diagnosis: How will you measure effectiveness? What KPIs will be put in place.

For development centers to be effective, it's important to note that development activities are aligned to strategic business goals and incorporate business processes that are used on a regular basis.


Employers and employees alike are often skeptical about leadership development. It's imperative that the leadership strategy be effectively communicated to all stakeholders and employees, highlighting the benefits to them individually and as an organisation. With this in mind a proper communications plan should be implemented, and should include:

  • Define Objectives: The overall communication objectives and the results you want to achieve.
  • Define Audience: Stakeholders, employees, external consultants
  • Identify Tools: What communications methods will be used and why.
  • Establish Timetable: A detailed list of activities, with deadlines and responsibilities.
  • Evaluate Results: What method will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the communications plan.

There's just a snippet of what every organisation needs to consider if they are serious about assessing, identifying and developing their leadership potential.

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