High Performer or High Potential

All leaders always keep watch for high performers they can move into greater responsibilities. You’re a lousy leader who may succeed in the short-term but fail in the end, if you don’t.

Real leader want to make more leaders.


Passion to develop great teams seduces leaders into hoping high performers are high potentials. But…

All high performers are not high potentials.

They’re just great at their jobs. Moving them into management or leadership is disastrous.


They might be great at their job but if they can’t shift toward helping others be great at their jobs, they’re not high potentials. They’re high performers.

Everyone can and must achieve results. But, when it comes to high potentials:

Don’t tell me what they can do.
Tell me what they can do through others.

First indications:

My recent conversation with Mike Howard, Chief Security Officer at Microsoft, included how he identifies high potentials.

Mike says he looks for people with initiative. High potentials have ideas but more than that they say, “Do you mind if I run with this idea?”


High potential only begins with performance. The real issue is future performance. What can they become? Mike said, “At Microsoft we ask..:

  1. Can they see the big picture?
  2. Have they expressed interested in assuming more responsibility?
  3. Do they have good performance reviews?
  4. Are they recommended by their manager?
  5. What is their reputation in terms of people skills?

Matters most:

High performance matters. But…

Performance doesn’t matter if their people skills suck.

All high potentials – future leaders and managers – are great with people. Or, they’re willing, eager, and able to learn.


High potentials are:

  1. Curious.
  2. Comfortable in their own skin.
  3. Open.
  4. Listeners.
  5. Intelligent.
  6. Collaborators.

Connect with Mike on twitter: @MikeHowardMSG

How do you identify a high potential?