Under the Radar: How to Spot Hidden High Potential Leaders

Vicki AbelsonBy Vicki Abelson, ACC

TLG Senior Consultant – Healthcare

Years ago, I worked with a manager who was one of the smartest, most dedicated, hardworking people I had ever worked with.

She had this unique ability to explain complex issues to anyone. She was quiet and her team listened and really valued what she had to say.

And yet, no one saw her greatness. No one saw that she came in early and left late, or that her team outperformed every other team. No one saw that she had the lowest turnover rate in the department.

Nobody saw it, including herself.

For a myriad of reasons, she did not advocate for herself for raises or promotions. And so, she was overlooked in favor of other high potentials in the department.

When we think about high potentials, it’s easy to think of the people that –

1. Do a great job and

2. Advocate for themselves

The quiet, shy, introverted (or frankly, the leaders that suffer from imposter syndrome) are easy to overlook.


Four Ways to Identify and Assess High Potential Leaders

When assessing your teams for high potential leaders, those people that you want to invest in, it’s important to look at a few criteria:

1. First, understand what High Potential means to you. Is this something that will take over the leadership of the team (part of the succession plan) or someone who can run point on high visibility projects?

2. How are they motivated? Those with an intrinsic motivation for the work, will work until the job is done because they are motivated by working towards the goal, not by the goal’s completion.

3. Pay special attention to the employees who seem shy, quiet, and generally fly under the radar. What can you learn about their work? What do they want for their careers? Don’t assume that just because they don’t speak up that they are not capable of more responsibility.

4. As people leave the organization, conduct exit interviews. Ask questions that will help you to understand why the person is leaving (more pay, more responsibility, more visibility, more acknowledgement?). Knowing why a person is leaving may help you to bolster your plan for investing in your high potential leaders.