What is leadership potential?

February 3, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

Perhaps not surprisingly, academics, practitioners and senior executives have debated this question for over a century. However, a recent study by Dries and Pepermans1 might finally provide an answer that most can agree with.

The authors of this study examined almost 50 academic articles and consulted widely with a range of HR scholars and practitioners to create a new model of leadership potential. This model incorporates both cognitive and interpersonal attributes and consists of four components:

  1. Analytical skills – including intellectual curiosity, strategic insight, decision making and problem solving
  2. Learning agility – including willingness to learn, emotional intelligence and adaptability
  3. Drive – including results orientation, perseverance and dedication
  4. Emergent leadership – including motivation to lead, self-promotion and stakeholder sensitivity

To their credit, the authors have applied both academic rigor and real-world experience to produce the first comprehensive description of leadership potential – we can now agree on what leadership potential looks like. However, they provide few new insights on how best to predict leadership potential.

Our central goal since 2010 has been to develop a robust and practical predictive measure of leadership potential, and a recent study of ours shows that a leader’s cognitive and emotional management abilities interact in a way that predicts leadership potential2. We are now the first to test and develop a measure of leadership potential using performance-based techniques rather than self-assessed or 360-degree surveys (which can be highly biased).

Further information on this new measure of leadership potential can be accessed via the following link, or by emailing Michael Collins.


  1. N. Dries and R. Pepermans, Human Resource Management 51 (3), 361-385 (2012).
  2. M. D. Collins, 74th Academy of Management Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1 – 5 August (2014), Submitted

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