Don't shield them from traumas which serve to mould them into becoming business leaders
Many organisations recognise that recruiting and retaining talented people is crucial to future success, and are developing programmes specifically aimed at high-flyers.
But it is debatable whether these schemes will really deliver the skills that will give companies a competitive advantage. Existing research suggests a more forward-looking approach is needed.
Typically, the high-flyer's journey involves three stages: identification that they are worthy of greater attention; a transition period lasting eight years on average; and incorporation into a key position.
In most instances competencies will be the key, and possibly the only selection criteria.
Many diverse characteristics are associated with successful business leaders, including strategic thinking, entrepreneurship, political acumen, pragmatism and dedication. So an important issue for HR is to know which competencies to assess.
However, my main concern, in terms of qualities required of top managers, is this methodology focuses on the high-flyer's destination, which is usually some senior management role, rather than their journey.
Concentrating on what we want individuals to become has significant drawbacks. We cannot expect to find miniature versions of high achievers in the same way we spot great football talent in young children.
It is how high-flyers handle the key transition points that determine their future performance. Nor can we be sure that cloning business leaders of 2002 will produce the leaders required 10 years from now.
Change is so rapid that managers could be outdated before they reach the end of theproduction line. High-flyers have to be able to adapt to new roles and circumstances because the future is less predictable. This, in turn, requires different forms of assessment.
Specific competency lists are too general, too bland and, more importantly, too present and past oriented. One solution is to augment them with 'meta-competencies' that are checked throughout someone's career.
If we define potential as "the ability to learn from experiences one might have in the future" (McCall, 1998), then new capabilities and the ability to adapt become all important. These might include being able to see things from new angles, adapting to cultural differences, and be