Leaders often (erroneously) assume that attributes that have made someone successful so far will continue to make them successful in a more significant role. The secret to selecting great leaders is to try and predict the future, not to reward the past.
If you want to select the best people for leadership roles, you need to change how you evaluate candidates. The next time you are filling a managerial position, ask yourself these questions:
1. Does the candidate have the skills to be a high-performing contributor or the skills to be an effective leader? The performance level of individual contributors is mainly measured through their ability, likability, and drive. Leadership, by contrast, demands a broader range of character traits, including high levels of integrity and low levels of dark-side behaviors born out of negative attributes.
2. Can I really trust this candidate’s individual performance measures? The most common indicator of someone’s performance is a single subjective rating by a direct line manager. This makes measures of performance vulnerable to bias, politics, and an employee’s ability to manage up. As a result, performance measures may not be as reliable as you think.
3. Am I looking forward or backward? Every organization faces the problem of how to identify the people who are most likely to lead your teams through growing complexity, uncertainty, and change. Such individuals may have a very different profile from those who have succeeded in the past, as well as from those who are succeeding in the present.
If you move beyond promoting those with the most competence and start thinking more about those who can get you where you want to go, your company will thrive. In other words, begin considering those who have high potential, not just top performers.