10 Essential Traits of a High Potential Leader

    Close your eyes and think back to your favorite leader of all time. What traits and behaviors do you specifically remember them for?

    Most people won’t start gushing about their spreadsheet management, PowerPoint skills or how they never showed up late to work. They’ll tell you about, “How they coached me,” “How they trusted me,” or, “How they treated me with respect.”

    Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” – Bill Bradley


    Great leadership usually comes down to the soft, social skills. The skills that are arguably, just as important – if not more so – than the harder leadership skills like crunching numbers.


    Identifying and developing high-potential leaders has never been so important. Uncertainty is running rife through industries. So, we need leaders who understand what’s required on an emotional level to make it through the storm, and how to help those around them to do the same.


    That doesn’t mean heads held high and stiff upper lips. The opposite, actually. It means honing emotional intelligence and high-level people skills to help others face challenges in a healthy way – and companies must guide their high potential leaders on their journeys.


    What is a High Potential Leader?

    “Leadership is an action, not a position.” Donald McGannon

    In a nutshell, a high potential leader is an extremely good egg – a high-flyer, who demonstrates the qualities to lead courageously, and guides and inspires others. High potential leaders shape and raise the potential of the teams, cultures, and companies around them.

    Don’t get us wrong, they are amazing. But they aren’t miracles sent from above. Leadership is a skill that can be developed, through experience and an openness and commitment to growth and self-improvement. It doesn’t matter how high you climb, leadership is a journey, not a destination, and at DX Learning, we understand it’s something you should never stop working at.

    However, high potential leaders require a different sort of approach to coaching and development. Did you know companies spend $14 billion on leadership development that doesn’t work? This is where EDX for high-potential leaders makes a real difference.

    We focus on nurturing people-first skills and emotional intelligence to match ambition and business knowledge. How? By using a combination of neuroscience and experiential learning to support and develop high potential leaders with the skill set to lead and manage effectively.

    What High Potential Leaders are Based on

    Now think back (with a shudder, we’re sure) to the worst leader you’ve ever known. The “nightmare boss.” Perhaps it was because they were overbearing, didn’t listen, micromanaged, or just came off as downright tyrannical.


    However they let employees (and themselves) down, bad leadership typically boils down to a lack of social skills. Harder to measure, yes, but it’s these soft skills that get the hard stuff done and make a truly incredible leader:


    1. Respect – High potential leadership is not about one amazing, charismatic hero; it’s about people working together to achieve collective hero status. Respect begins with making a concerted effort to understand different perspectives. Respecting others’ emotions and experiences grows trust and helps to resolve conflict in a constructive way. 
    1. Self-Awareness – You need to bring out the best in yourself to be able to bring out the best in others. Tasha Eurich found that 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% actually are, leading to increased stress and decreased motivation. The better leaders recognize their own strengths, weaknesses and emotions, and the effect they have on everyone’s day, the more effective they can be as a leader.
    1. Emotional Intelligence – We’re talking about the ability to understand, manage, and develop your own feelings, while also being able to do the same when it comes to the feelings of others. The result? Stronger relationships, happier, motivated, more productive people, and a plummeting turnover rate to boot. That’s why emotional intelligence is so important in leadership.

    2. People-First Interpersonal Skills– Leaders need to understand when, and how, to articulately express themselves. When and how to actively listen to those around them, and how to ensure they never catch themselves interrupting someone, making them scared to speak up, or stomping on their ideas.

    10 Essential Traits of a High Potential Leader

    1. Empathy– An empathetic leader doesn’t ever judge – they know leadership is about caring and never assuming. Toxicity is the number one reason people leave a company, and an empathetic leader can stop that toxicity in its tracks. Equipped with the skills to step into employees’ shoes, high potential leaders can make more constructive, thoughtful decisions. Sign up to our keynote on empathy here to learn more.
    1. Self-Motivation– Developing social skills requires a commitment from the heart and soul. A desire to learn and grow and be better. Great leaders don’t simply regenerate like the Doctor when they get that promotion – a high potential leader views education as a continuous and exciting journey rather than a box to tick.
    1. Open and Honest Feedback – High potential leaders understand that feedback should be given to help people grow, not to chastise, placate or fob someone off – and there’s an art to it. It needs to be thoughtful and comprehensive, never off the cuff, and honest (delivered with tact, of course). The goal is to create a trusting environment where a two-way conversation can flourish.
    1. Inclusivity – Inclusive leadership creates a culture where ideas, people, communication, and results will blossom. Where individuals will unlock their potential, and forever remember that leader as the one who helped them to do it. Inclusive leadership results in organizations that are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors (McKinsey).

    “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” – Steven Spielberg

    1. Great Coaching High potential leaders understand that their role is about coaching, mentoring, and helping others feel confident in their skills, to realize and reach their potential. They praise peers for their wins and love to see them succeed.

      Food for thought: 71% of employees who leave a business within two years think their leadership skills are not being developed, with 57% feeling overlooked for potential leadership positions themselves (Deloitte).
    1. Delegation – Leaders who micro-manage or dump everything from their own plate onto employees create cultures riddled with burnout, self-doubt, and insecurity. When leaders understand how to effectively delegate tasks and assign people responsibility, they demonstrate trust and belief, and help their people to develop those feelings within themselves too.

    Find out more about how EDX for High Potential Leaders can spark change in your organization, and reach out to us to get the ball rolling and develop your high potential leaders for the future.

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