Understanding your own capacity to lead as well as this in that of others can significantly add value to your organisation and its stakeholders.

What is a leader?

“A person who influences others because they willingly do what he or she requests”

(Armandi et al 2003)

I like the simple idea that if you are not followed then you cannot be a leader.

Having trained, taught and coached people both in leadership roles or those aspiring to be leaders for many years, I have a strong interest in what it is that makes a person an effective leader.

There are numerous ways in which individuals can find out about their capacity to lead others. For some, this is being given responsibility for people and finding out the hard way. Increasingly though, organisations are far more aware of the risks of doing this and they will provide development programmes, coaching and training to grow their own leaders and if recruiting from outside will look at an individual’s track record as an indicator of likely success.

What is potential?

“A person with potential is one who can grow to maximise or optimise their talent”

In the context of leadership we are looking at the factors that, when combined, give an individual a high probability of success.

If we know what these factors are, we can begin to make key decisions about our own and others’ future roles and development.

Research has shown that personality traits predict approximately 20% of potential at work. Personality can be described as ‘the way we think’. Our personalities are largely shaped by our early twenties and become less variable as we get older.

There is no simple or single measure of potential. As with all things, some are better suited to certain situations than others.

Key questions around leadership

Anyone with more than a passing interest in leaders will have the heard the question:

“Are leaders born or made?”

Answers on a postcard please!

There is no doubt that training or development can increase leadership potential which is good news. However, clearly there are some people that will be more naturally inclined to thrive in senior leadership positions than others.

What else can help?

I have long been a fan of psychometric assessments in a leadership context as an aid to self-awareness and to give insight for personal development. For you or your existing leadership team they can help with developing positive relationships through being more aware of each others strengths and weaknesses and being able to play to them.

Critically, psychometric assessments can also provide real insight to aid decision making around people development, building leadership teams, succession planning, recruitment and internal promotion.

High Potential Trait Indicator (HPTI)

I use the HPTI from Thomas International as one of the key assessment tools for leadership development.

The HPTI assessment looks at six personality traits. It assumes that certain personality trait levels can indicate a high potential to succeed and be considered ‘optimal’ based on the requirements of a senior executive leadership. Too much or too little of a trait can indicate characteristics that could ‘de-rail’ an otherwise successful person.

The six personality traits measured by the HPTI are as follows:

  1. Conscientiousness – combines self-discipline, an organised approach to work and ability to control impulses which others might give in to
  2. Adjustment – indicates how individuals react emotionally to stress, external events, pressures and relationships
  3. Curiosity (novelty) – how individuals approach novelty, innovation, change, new information and methods
  4. Risk Approach – how someone deals with challenging, difficult or threatening situations
  5. Ambiguity Acceptance (complexity) – an individual’s reaction to complexity and contradictory information
  6. Competitiveness – the relative desire to win, need for power and reaction to winning and losing

Why is HPTI so useful?

  • It provides a subjective assessment on an individual’s leadership capacity based on their personality traits. This adds valuable insight to career development decision making.
  • It highlights strengths and weaknesses in the context of where the person is currently in their career and in terms of where they see their future direction.
  • It can provide an excellent basis for discussion around issues from an organisational leadership perspective.
  • It aids understanding of how and why some internal conflicts arise and what could be done by modifying behaviour to reduce the impact of these

To find out more on the HPTI assessment go to https://www.thomas.co/assessments/workplace-personality-tests

Our top five tips are:

  1. Do the HPTI assessment yourself or use it to aid recruitment and selection in your organisation

It is unique. There is nothing else like it.

As an existing leader, you can discover what your potential trait indicators are and where they help you to succeed and those that may hinder your effectiveness. Use it to aid decision making for recruitment and selection of successors or to identify potential leaders in the organisation.

If you are keen to take on a leadership role, it may be something that you could ask your organisation to arrange as part of a training or development programme. If this is not possible, consider doing an assessment on your own behalf. It would invaluable for your personal and career development.

When you do the assessment, avoid the temptation to try to answer in a way that you think you should rather than your instinctive response.

  1. Get feedback

Get feedback from an experienced practitioner. This will give you far more insight than a report on its own can. It also avoids you having to try to interpret the findings on your own.

  1. Take the opportunity to discuss the issues that you or the organisation are facing as part of your feedback session

The opportunity to explore organisational culture, leadership and strategic issues as part of this feedback is worth taking. You are able to talk openly in a confidential setting. Sharing issues may generate potential solutions to issues that you have already identified.

  1. Remember there are no good or bad scores!

When looking at your results, think about how your personality traits do and don’t work for you in your current situation and where you might want to modify your behaviour in certain situations to be more effective or to realise your leadership potential in the future.

In a recruitment or selection situation, consider how a candidate’s traits could interact with others in your organisation. Where could there be synergies and how could they improve existing team performance, for example?

  1. Act!

As an existing leader, decide which elements of your HPTI results are priorities for you to focus on. Your feedback and the report will provide suggestions on how to develop your leadership style. Don’t try to do it all at once. Act on the key ones first.

In a recruitment and selection situation, the suggestions in the report can be used in discussion with the prospective candidate.

We can provide the HPTI assessment questionnaire and deliver feedback for you. To find out more contact us today.

Note: We offer Thomas International assessments including PPA, TEIQue and HPTI. For more information click here

With thanks to Thomas International for some of the trait descriptors