Business leaders worldwide have reported concerns about finding new talent to take their place, according to global research from leadership and talent consultancy Korn Ferry.

In the second report in its “Succession Matters” series, Korn Ferry found that only half of respondents (51%) felt confident that their company knows which candidates they should be investing in as potential future leaders, and half again (52%) believed they have identified those who are ready for specific roles.

Steve Newhall, Managing Partner at Korn Ferry Leadership & Talent Consulting, UK, said:

“While it’s true to say that most high potentials are high performers, it does not follow that performance is the only indicator of potential. Promoting the right people is key to ensuring a smooth transition in the development of a future leadership pipeline.”

The survey of leaders from organisations ranging size from 500 to more than 50,000 members of staff revealed that candidate’s skills and competencies present a significant challenge, with nearly two thirds (63%) of respondents reporting that a lack of well-suited traits for a company’s culture was the primary reason that promotions fail.

Newhall added:

“The results show us that people are promoted for what they can do, but fail for who they are. It’s critical to take a whole-person perspective when promoting people, focusing particularly on drivers and traits, otherwise you run the risk of identifying the wrong talent. That can mean wasting years of organisational investment and leaders’ time developing themselves for a role they won’t find engaging or be successful at.”

When considering who has the potential to rise to senior levels within an organisation, Korn Ferry research points to seven key signs:

1)      A track record of formative experiences

2)      Learning agility

3)      Self-awareness

4)      Leadership traits

5)      The drive to be a leader

6)      Aptitude for logic and reasoning

7)      Managing derailment risks

Newhall said:

“All the seven signposts can be assessed and quantified. They enable us to predict which leaders have the greatest likelihood of rising up the ranks. Organisations can therefore be confident that their people investment is paying off.

“Companies need to identify those in their late 20s and early 30s who have the greatest potential to be future senior leaders, then manage their development and their careers to ensure they are ready and rounded when they need to be.”