When evaluating their employees for leadership potential, organisations are likely to focus on the employees who have impressed them most with their performance at work. These employees are chosen early and quickly by their seniors and inducted into leadership training.
It’s not surprising that organisations usually reserve the best facilities for their high-performing employees. After all, it does makes sense that employees who put in more effort and bring forth better results, be preferred over those who are medium or low performers. However, such an approach can also lead to friction among the employees, and give them a sense of being ignored.
If an organisation seems to be favouring only few employees and providing them with the best facilities to promote their growth, there is an obvious disparity in the workforce.
“We can’t define leadership using the narrow lense of high performance”
Amit Sharma, CHRO, Volvo Group India
High performers are usually known to be capable of achieving success and leading people even without the crutch of training, which renders the organisations’ emphasis on giving them the best of everything a little useless. In this process, organisations run the risk of losing the trust of their employees, and wasting the potential of all the talent that showed promise in the past but weren’t able to capitalise on it.
What if the high performers are not equipped with the inherent skills needed to become leaders?
So, is it fair that organisations should only provide leadership training to high-performing employees?
Performance vs aptitude
Anil Mohanty, head of people and culture, Medikabazaar, says, “performance shouldn’t be the only parameter for judging an employee, because leadership involves many duties and requires the fulfilment of different roles, other than just being great at one’s job.”
“If an employee is very good at providing ICO’s (Initial Coin Offering), the company may grant him/her a managerial role, even though he/she may not be up to it for lack of the aptitude to communicate with people in an assertive manner.”
To be a leader, one doesn’t have to be the best at one’s job. Leadership requires different sets of skills, such as confidence, ability to dominate conversations, natural charisma, and so on, that are different from technical expertise at work. These qualities cannot be taught to people, and sometimes, any amount of training will not help achieve the desired result.
“If an employee is very good at providing ICO’s (Initial Coin Offering), the company may grant him/her a managerial role, even though he/she may not be up to it for lack of the aptitude to communicate with people in an assertive manner”
Anil Mohanty, head of people and culture, Medikabazaar
Amit Sharma, CHRO, Volvo Group India, believes, “We can’t define leadership using the narrow lense of high performance. Today, many people can be leaders if they are given a valid chance.”
“Leadership training should cut across all hierarchies,” Sharma stresses, and not be restricted to only one strata of performers, otherwise the organisations will suffer in the long term by not exploiting their talent.
The inability or unwillingness to give a second look to the other employees is what results in a lot of potentially good leaders never getting the break and the platform to learn and grow.
Ramesh Shankar S, founder of Hrishti.com, and former EVP & head of HR, Siemens, says, “Organisations need to differentiate between potential and performance.”
Resources and budget
“If an organisation has unlimited resources, then it should access and enlist employees based on their potential, to be leaders, and not solely on their performance.” Shankar says.
“Organisations with limited budgets usually prioritise high performers because they don’t want to waste their money. However, this process can turn harmful if the employees don’t show the expected growth,” Shankar points out.
“If an organisation has unlimited resources, then it should access and enlist employees based on their potential, to be leaders, and not solely on their performance”
Ramesh Shankar S, founder of Hrishti.com, and former EVP & head of HR, Siemens
“If even 30 per cent of the employees show potential for leadership, then the organisation needs to invest in them rather than on the high performers who may not have the same aptitude.” Advises Shankar.
There is always a reservoir of talent in an organisation, and it’s the responsibility of the senior management to bring it out to the surface. It isn’t wrong to rely on high performers to gauge potential leaders, because they’re often the safer bets. However, by focusing on two or three per cent of the workforce, the companies fail to explore the hidden potential that may only need a little bit of coaxing to flourish.
By making the process of providing leadership training democratic, and giving more opportunities to employees to prove themselves, companies can avoid wasting potential, and gain extraordinary returns.