Target High Potentials vs. Leadership Development for the Masses


There has always been an ongoing debate about whether you should focus limited leadership development resources on a small number of high potentials or casting a wider net and trying to provide development opportunities for everyone.   My opinion is that if we don’t find ways to do both there will not be anyone left in our organizations worth leading.

I think we can all agree that:

  1. Developing employees is a powerful retention strategy that also pays dividends with an engaged workforce.
  2. Providing development opportunities only for the select few will create an environment of ‘clock punchers’ that show up for the paycheck.
  3. Everyone in the organization needs opportunities for growth even if they will spend their entire career in the same position.
  4. Development professionals are often limited in budget and resources

With the above in mind (specifically #4), here are a few simple things that we can do in order to achieve the seemingly impossible task of providing development opportunities for the masses.

–          Design a tiered approach to your Leadership Development where the investment and resource demands increase as participants move from stage to stage.

–          Transfer ownership for development to the individual.  Everyone is more engaged if they feel some ownership and control over the process.

–          Use self-directed leadership development tools that can easily & cost-effectively be delivered to a large audience (insert shameless plug for our Leadership Skills Profile (LSP))

–          Define milestones that individuals must complete to self-select into each progressive development tier.  This is a great way to qualify your candidate pool

–          Use group metrics to identify where the most need exists and let that drive your development dollars

If we make it a priority to cast a very wide net with our Leadership Development programs, it can be done even with scarce resources.  You’ll be amazed at the positive impact on the engagement of your workforce and you might even find some hidden talent in the process.

What are some of the things you have done or plan on doing to cast a wider net?

Please check out or contact me at gharrison (at) to see how simple it really is.

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