Developing High Potential (NextGen) Leaders

Talent management and retention is perennially at the top of CEO’s most pressing worries. A company’s leadership pipeline is expected to deliver its “next generation” of ready-now leaders. The key to ensuring an organisation has the leaders it needs when it needs them, is to accelerate the performance of future leaders including high potential employees, so that their skills and leadership abilities are as strong as possible when they are needed particularly as leaders transition from role to role.

Having a robust leadership pipeline remains as one of the critical talent management issue facing organizations around the world operating in a VUCA business environment as this would contribute towards the development of a the sustainable competitive advantage of the organization. This is achieved by cultivating emerging talent early while enhancing organizational capability. Developing a leadership pipeline starts with identifying and then transforming high-potential individuals to a variety of developmental opportunities and experiences. 

Organizations are facing unprecedented new leadership challenges, including developing different generations of leaders including Gen Y, meeting the demand for leaders with global fluency and flexibility, building the ability to innovate and inspire others to perform, and acquiring new levels of understanding of rapidly changing and emerging technologies and new disciplines and fields.  As experienced leaders, managers, and professionals continue to leave an organization, their intellectual capital and tacit knowledge, unless codified, will be lost, creating tremendous challenges at a time when the market is growing more global and dynamic. This translates to tougher competition in the marketplace, making the search for high-potential people externally more difficult and future success more elusive. Further, there is a sense of urgency for organizations today to accelerate the time to competence compounds the challenge of building a strong leadership pipeline from within. 

Executive and leadership training programs may be strengthened, broadened and deepened to include inspiring and engaging others, as well as Cognitive Readiness and Critical Thinking skills. These capabilities can be addressed by incorporating specific activities and exercises designed to increase awareness of their impact and importance in familiar techniques, such as case studies or applicable business simulations. 

Additionally, opportunities for application and practice can be provided in experience based approaches where participants work to apply the concepts and skills directly to real business issues, while colleagues and facilitators provide feedback based on behaviors they observed during their work together.

Assessment of High Potentials 

High-potential employees embody passion and are characterized by a quick movement through various roles in a company, a carefully monitored career path, and an elite, but usually secretive, status. As the future leaders of their organizations, high-potentials slide into new positions, receive special coaching and mentoring, and are expected to deliver superior performances.

If you're not sure how to begin building your talent pipeline, we have a listing of recommended proven tools and assessments that can help you accurately identify leaders, top performers, and loyal staffers — and establish developmental opportunities that will drive benefits for the individual and for your organization.

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Transition Coaching for Development of HiPO Leaders

A company’s leadership pipeline is expected to deliver its “next generation” of ready-now leaders. The payoff is a supply of leadership talent that simultaneously achieves targets, bolsters and protects ethical reputation, and navigates transformational change in pursuit of a bright competitive future. Unfortunately, some Boards and CEOs neglect their talent management accountability - consequently, their pipelines run dry. When this occurs, the downward spiral of competitive capability becomes discernable, the edge is lost, and the “magic” disappears. The competition begins to outwit, outflank and outperform these companies. 

In the 2009 Harvard Business Review article “The Realities of Executive Coaching”, Coaches surveyed reported that 48% of the time they are hired to develop high potentials or to facilitate transitions. 

Successfully assuming a new leadership role is almost never easy. It is more often challenging and daunting—regardless of the amount of experience a leader may have. 

According to Ready and Conger in their June 2010 Harvard Business Review article "Are You a High Potential", among the reasons for losing a spot on the high potential list are making a poor transition into a new role, diminished performance two years in a row, behavior that’s out of line with the company’s culture and values, and a significant visible failure. 

Actions taken in the first few months of a leadership transition directly impact a leader’s chances of success. Transitions can be times of both great opportunity and great risk.  Transitioning leaders often find the eyes of superiors, colleagues, direct reports, and even shareholders firmly fixed on their first moves.  Expectations are high.  So what are the secrets of succeeding and thriving in times of role transition, with so much at stake?

Coaching leaders in role to-role transition has three overall goals: to accelerate the transition process by providing just-in-time advice and counsel, to prevent mistakes that may harm the business and the leader’s career, and to assist the leader in developing and implementing a targeted, actionable transition plan that delivers business results.

The issues covered in the executive coaching engagementincludes sorting through short and long-term goals, and managing relationships upwards as well as with team members, The coaching engagement will also focused specifically on the transition and designed to educate and challenge new leaders. The new leader and coach will work together to develop a Leadership Transition Plan& Stakeholder Mapping that will define critical actions that must take place during the first 90 days to establish credibility, secure early wins and position the leader and team for long-term success.

The coaching engagement also includes regular meetings with the new leader as well as ongoing feedback. Frequently, the coach conducts a “pulse check” of the key players, including the boss, direct reports, peers and other stakeholders, after four to six weeks to gather early impressions so that the new leader can make a course correction if needed.

The entire coaching process (Refer to Figure 1) provides new leaders with the guidance to take charge of their new situation, achieve alignment with the team, and ultimately to move the business forward. Organizations make a significant investment when they recruit and hire new leaders, and they have much to lose if a new hire does not succeed, possibly several times the hire’s base compensation.

Figure 1 – Framework for Transition Coaching (HiPO) & Leaders in Transition

Adapted from: Sattar Bawany, ‘Maximising the Potential of Future Leaders: Resolving Leadership Succession Crisis with Transition Coaching’ In ‘Coaching in Asia – The First Decade’, Candid Creation Publishing LLP, September 2010.



What makes a high potential manager transform to be a leader? Is it a compilation of certain behaviors? Is it style? Is it a certain way of communicating? What do leaders do that makes people perceive them as leaders?

In order to answer these questions, let’s first look at what makes a good manager. We’ve all had poor managers, so we know a good one right away. It’s someone who inspires us, who cares about what we do and how we do it. It’s someone for whom everyone wants to work - the person who makes the group work as a successful team. If you’re lucky enough to be on that team, coming to work is fun and challenging. You work hard, but you get results.

Given that description, isn’t a manager also a leader? Are these not leadership skills? What would keep a great manager from being seen as a potential candidate for leadership?

Successful high potential Leaders do share many of the traits of a great manager. They inspire. They motivate. However, leaders take it all a step further. Leaders are enthusiastic, optimistic and articulate when talking about plans, hopes and successes. Their genuine enthusiasm energizes and attracts others. It brings visions to life. Leaders sincerely believe in what they are saying and they demonstrate their personal convictions through their behaviors. This is what gives them the confidence to make unpopular judgment calls and to sell ideas that contradict the status quo. It’s what enables them to inspire others to follow them down a difficult road while keeping up the group’s morale.

Are there recipe for success for those HiPOs moving from managerial to leadership roles?

Leaders must identify the right goals, develop a supporting strategy, align the architecture of the organization, and figure out what projects to pursue to secure early wins. Leaders at all levels of the organization must demonstrate a high degree of emotional and social intelligence in their leadership role. Emotionally intelligent leaders create an environment of positive morale and higher productivity and this would result in sustainable employee engagement. The critical transitional skills for leaders in transition include having emotional intelligence competencies in effective relationship management, cross-cultural communication, effective negotiation and conflict management.

The reality for leaders in transition is that relationships are great sources of leverage. By building credibility with influential players, you are better able to gain agreement on goals, and commitment to achieving those goals.

In the leader’s new situation, relationship management skills are critical as they aren’t the only one going through a transition. To varying degrees, many different people, both inside and outside the leader’s direct line of command, are affected by the way he or she handles his or her new role. Organizations need leaders to visualize the future, motivate and inspire employees, and adapt to changing needs. On-going research indicates that, with the right leadership development support including executive coaching, those with leadership potential can be developed into outstanding leaders. Emotional Intelligence competencies are perhaps the most challenging for leaders to develop effectively and yet it is the one that often has the most impact. As emotionally intelligent leaders rise through the ranks of an organization, their profile becomes more visible to employees and their increased power can have greater impact.

The following are selected Leadership programmes that we would recommend for development of HiPOs: 

Program 1: Executive Coaching Solutions

Program 2: Corporate Coaching Skills for Managers

Program 3: The Leadership That Gets Results

Program 4: Leading & Engaging a Multigenerational Workforce

Program 5: Transformational Team Leadership

Program 6: Developing Mentoring Skills at the Workplace

Program 7: Managerial Skills for New Supervisors

Program 8: Developing Balanced Scorecard & Strategy Map

Program 9: Leading Transition and Change at the Workplace

Program 10: Problem Solving & Decision Making


For further information on CEE Leadership Development Programs and how we could support the development of your High Potentials, please email us at


  1. Sattar Bawany (2016), Leading in a VUCA Business Environment, in Leadership Excellence Essentials, Issue 07.2016.
  2. Bonnie Hagemann, Sattar Bawany et al. (2016), Research on Trends in Executive Development: A Benchmark Report, published by Executive Development Associates (EDA); Pearson TalentLens and Performance Assessment Network (PAN), February 2016.
  3. Bonnie Hagemann & Sattar Bawany (2016), Enhancing Leadership and Executive Development - Latest Trends & Best Practices in Leadership Excellence Essentials, Issue 03.2016.
  4. Sattar Bawany (2014), “Building High Performance Organisations with Results-based Leadership (RBL) Framework” in Leadership Excellence Essentials, Issue 11.2014
  5. Sattar Bawany, ‘Maximising the Potential of Future Leaders: Resolving Leadership Succession Crisis with Transition Coaching’ In ‘Coaching in Asia – The First Decade’, Candid Creation Publishing LLP, September 2010.
  6. World Economic Forum (WEF) Report on WEF Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015