Building competencies for effective leadership in organisations have become the panacea for achieving tangible success. To meet the set goals, workers with potentials for managing strategic functions need to be identified and placed appropriately.

The overall performance of an organisation is determined by the quality of its workforce. Organisational workforce therefore, is a critical instrument for maintaining a competitive edge in the industry it belongs.

It is imperative that processes are put in place to identify the potentials of workers with emphases on their capabilities to perform functions and play strategic roles assigned to them.

This paper focuses on workers potentials for performance, how to identify potentials, job placement criteria, productivity level and of course the role of the mentors and the Mentees. The paper will also attempt to identify the challenges and remedies of potential review processes.


i.  Task-Orientation:
Task-oriented leaders focus on tasks completion irrespective of prevailing circumstances. This is with a view to achieving set goals. These leaders are typically less concerned with the idea of carrying all employees along but concerned with finding the step-by-step solution required to meet specific goals. They will often actively define the work and the roles required, put structures in place, plan, organize, and monitor progress within the team.

The advantage of task-oriented leadership is that it ensures that deadlines are met and jobs are completed, and it’s especially useful for team members who don’t manage their time well. Additionally, these types of leaders will tend to exemplify strong understanding of how to get the job done by focusing on the necessary workplace procedures, delegating work to ensure that everything gets done in a timely and productive manner. Task-oriented managers play leading role in any organization.
ii.  Engagement Criteria for Job Placement
♣  The Empowered Employees
Expert opinions confirm that engagement exists when employees feel empowered; they “own” their work and treat it as their business. Therefore, they often become proactive rather than reactive – they don’t have to be told what to do. When engaged, workers are motivated in their work, excited about innovation and enthusiastic about continuous improvement. They have trusting relationships and participate in good communication and information flow. Engagement methods currently in use are but not limited to competency-based selection, appraisal, development programs, as well as analysis of training needs.

Three strategies exist and they are:
♣  Proper placement and use of talent in specific jobs (to include skills, knowledge and training to further develop those talents),
♣  Appropriate accountability and incentives,
♣  Accurate performance appraisal.

iii.  Attitudinal Configuration
Developing positive attitude at work can determine how successful you are in your career. However, this can be tough especially when things seem to go wrong all the time.
Building positive attitude at work that is recognized by your top management and appreciated by your colleagues is critical to your career progression.
Cultivating good attitude at work can indeed determine how high your career can fly.

Some organizations conduct work attitude values enhancement programs for their employees. As a manager aspiring to occupy more strategic position, you can use these values as your own personal work attitude values enhancement principle; these are Pride, passion and belief.
Other factors that compliments the foregoing are knowledge and skills, Passion for Direction, Action and your personal Work Attitude Value Enhancement (WAVE).
For any worker to be spotted as most qualified to occupy a strategic position in an organisation, positive attitude usually play a key role. When attitude is right the outcomes would be:
♣  Result-oriented Strategic thinking and decision making,

♣  Clear focus; Managing failure and crisis becomes easier and,
♣  The quest for Innovation takes centre stage.

iv.  Creativity
There are four known forms of creativity and they are Reframing, Mind-Mapping, Insight and Creative Flow.

Reframing opens up creative possibilities by changing our interpretation of an event, situation, behaviour, person or object. So reframing isn’t just an intellectual exercise – it changes the way we feel, which in turn changes our capacity for action. This makes it a powerful creative tool for changing our own lives and influencing other people.

Mind mapping sidesteps the problem by allowing you to write ideas down in an associative and organic pattern. Since it involves both words and a visual layout, it has been claimed that mind mapping engages both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, leading to a more holistic and imaginative style of thinking.

Insight The word insight has several different meanings, but in the context of creative thinking it means an idea that appears in the mind as if from nowhere, with no immediately preceding conscious thought or effort; an idea pops into your mind out of the blue; the propensity to do something that make outstanding contributions to processes and goal realization etc.

There are many accounts of creative breakthroughs made through insight: Port Concession, NPA IT Portal, Increasing revenue generation, improved regulatory control of Terminal Operators, etc
v.  Creative Flow
This is a feeling you get when you are completely immersed in your work and every other thing means nothing to you at that moment. You continue to work on your idea until everything fall into place, management and colleagues/subordinates sees and accept that you the umpire; and thereafter feel a deep sense of fulfilment. According to Mihaly, creative flow is highly correlated with outstanding creative performance.

The characteristics of creative flow are clear goals every step of the way, immediate feedback to your actions, balance between challenges and skills, action and awareness are merged, distractions are excluded from consciousness, there is no worry of failure, self-consciousness disappears, the sense of time becomes inconsequential, the activity becomes ‘autotelic’ – meaning it is an end in itself. Whenever most of the elements of flow are occurring, the activity becomes enjoyable and rewarding for its own sake.

Performance ability traceable to a worker(s) will differentiate those with managerial potentials and those without.

The below points are keys to performance:

i. Knowledge and skill level
The relevant knowledge and skill of potential for performance has to do with humanistic, technical and environmental. These three give key insight to the leader or manager of what to be done and the skill which to do it. The knowledge must be organised to achieve a reasonable force of achievement. That achievement becomes outstanding to the level of overall acknowledgement.

ii. Personality orientation
The personality of the worker is important to the achievement of goals. The personality can be classified as behavioural, attitudinal, affectiveness, introversion, extroversion etc. Behavioural Invention (BI), Assertive Survey Schedule (ASS), Imagery Survey Schedule (RSS) are critical to personality analysis.

iii. Strategic thinking
Strategic Thinking is a planning process that applies innovation, strategic planning and operational planning to develop business strategies that have a greater chance for success.

Strategic Thinking requires innovation and creativity and includes a research phase to examine those we serve, the employee and industry best practices. It is a process of examining everything we do in our various roles, understanding the needs of our customers and ensuring that all of this is linked to clearly define strategic imperatives.

iv. Leading qualities
Leadership is dependent on certain qualities to be able to perform their task most efficiently. According to Peter Economy there are nine (9) leading qualities that managers should have.

♣  Awareness: There is a difference between management and employees, bosses and workers. Leaders understand the nature of this difference and accept it; it informs their image, their actions, and their communication. They conduct themselves in a way that sets them apart from their employees–not in a manner that suggests they are better than others, but in a way that permits them to retain an objective perspective on everything that’s going on in their organization. Managers with leading qualities have the potentials to occupy strategic positions towards the achievement of organizational set goals.

♣  Decisiveness: Decision making is a major part of managerial functions. The manager is expected to understand situations, interest that traverse throughout the organization, firmness mixed with equity and justice, ability to possess authority and power for achieving objectives. Ability to decide makes the leader to elicit extraordinary performance from other people. That is to say he sees what others see and what others cannot see, knows what others know and what others do not know and do what others can do and do beyond what others can, etc.

♣  Empathy: Managers create opportunities for subordinates to perform a task believing that they have the ability to carry out the task without supervision. The manager in this situation encourages the subordinate openly and corrects or exerts some discipline privately. Managers with such potentials can play diverse roles and occupy different positions in an organization.

♣  Accountability: Efficient managers take responsibility for their actions and remain accountable to the organization in all that they do. They follow up on all outstanding issues, check in on employees, and monitor the effectiveness of company policies and procedures. When things are going well, they praise. When problems arise, they identify them quickly, seek solutions, and get things back on track.

♣  Confidence: Not only are the best leaders confident, but their confidence is contagious. Employees are naturally drawn to them, seek their advice, and feel more confident as a result.

♣  Optimism: Good leaders are source of positive energy. They communicate easily. They are intrinsically helpful and genuinely concerned for other people’s welfare.

♣  Honesty: Strong leaders treat people how they want to be treated. They are extremely ethical and believe that honesty, effort, and reliability form the foundation of success. They embody these values so openly that no employee doubts their integrity for a second.

♣  Focus: Result oriented managers plan ahead and they are supremely organized. They think through multiple scenarios and the possible impacts of their decisions, while considering viable alternatives and making plans and strategies towards success.

♣  Inspiration: The ability to inspire people to achieve higher results and recognizing the contribution of others places the managers on a higher pedestal. Such managers adopt open arena communication strategy, set attainable goals with realistic timelines, train and make working tools available with which to achieve results, give praise and commensurate compensation to people around him.

Empowerment occurs when an employee is given the freedom, power, trust, autonomy, and encouragement to carry out job-related tasks. When used as a motivational strategy, empowerment can provide an employee with a sense of pride and ownership over their work. People want to feel in control of their destiny, especially in the workplace.

Essentially, empowerment provides a worker with intrinsic, or self-induced, rewards by allowing them to make decisions on their own and see the success that follows. Employees associate their success with their own abilities, motivating them to continue to strive for higher levels of productivity in future tasks.

Managers can promote organizational success by inviting employees to be innovative in their ideas, solutions, and decisions while at the same time giving them authority to see them through to implementation. Empowerment enables subordinates to work independently as they control their own jobs by using their own knowledge, skill sets, abilities, and decision-making skills to achieve personal and organizational success.
In promoting the mangers’ performance, the Strategic vision, mission and objectives of the organisation must be clear; the modus operandi for meaningful participation must be in place accompanied with clear rules and regulations. It is also important that the career path progressions, reward system for outstanding achievement are well documented and implemented.

The criteria that are in common use for job placement include:
i.     Relevant educational/professional qualifications
ii.     Knowledge and skills (core competencies)
iii.    Work experience
iv.     Personality disposition
v.     Task orientation
vi.     Team player, etc

High potential workers are those believed to have the opportunity to grow their capabilities rapidly in line with the strategic goal of the organisation in the now and future. The process of identifying high potential workers require due diligence, clear established criteria, accurate information and strategic decision making that promote equity and good judgement.

The process of nominating high potentials must not be short-changed by personal preferences, prejudices and relationships that are at variance with standard norms. The assessment and nomination of high potentials is always enclosed within a larger talent review process and most times fail to meet the required demand. It is therefore important that relevant senior managers are involved in the talent review process using appropriate accurate guidelines.

The following factors are normally used to identify potential leaders in organisation:
i.  Possession of strategic talent
ii.  Nomination process of potentials
iii.  Definition of potential with consistency
iv.  Separating potential performance from readiness
v.  Involvement of senior managers
vi.   Task orientation

Organisation is made up of leaders and followers with each having critical role to play to achieve the set goals of the organisation and themselves. A mentor provides guidance and support to meet the unique needs of Mentees’ development. The mentor provides advice and guidance, share ideas, relevant information, written and unwritten that made for success and general description of the environment of the organisation.

The Mentor remains a source through which the Mentee:

♣  Understand career path progression
♣  Succession plan of the organisation
♣  Internal and external environment that have influence on the organisation and the work/staff members
♣  Expands the Mentees network of contact
♣  Serves as a credible resource person that identifies resources that will help the Mentee to enhance personal development
♣  Serves as advocate to the Mentee whenever opportunities     
present themselves and even seek opportunity that increases the visibility of the Mentee.

The Mentee is that individual who seeks for help from the mentor and as such should drive the relationship in order to achieve his/her goals.

The Mentee should therefore follow the advice of the mentor as regards:
♣  Knowledge and skill
♣  Target setting and how to realize them
♣  Communicate feedback with the understanding that he is being mentored
♣  Put in place a development plans and timelines
♣  Open up him/her for learning from the mentor in a continuing Career Development Pattern (CDP) perspective.

If the role of the mentor (top manager) and the mentees (subordinates) are properly understood and implemented in an organisation, not only will a stock of qualified personnel be developed, their job placement will also fulfil the old saying – “Putting round pegs in round holes”.


Eric Hanson said that organisational talent review has been one of the fastest growing management practices in recent years, and that is the purposes of the talent review process.

The processes he gave are as follows:
♣  Attaining a broad view of the readiness of leaders to meet the current and future needs of the business and its strategy.
♣  Gauging the health of the organization’s pipeline of leadership talent.
♣  Taking inventory of talent on an individual basis to identify performance gaps.
♣  Aligning individuals’ career interests with opportunities for growth or development.
♣  Identifying high potentials for accelerated assessment and development in preparation for more-senior-level roles, and
♣  Identifying near-term successor candidates for most-critical roles.

1. Inclusion Of All Managers In The Talent Review Process:
In many organisations every manager in the chain are included into the talent review process. Every manager struggles to be included into the high potential rating numbers that are to be strategically positioned in the organisation. The critical tasks of evaluating talents are not afforded the time and the quality it deserves. This situation usually leads to abuse of processes that will enthrone qualified candidates. It also distorts the selection process.
In order to solve the above problem, management should ensure that the managers involved in the talent review process have clear direction for evaluating and nominating high potentials, define accurately the process involved, guide discussion and decision making and adequate rating instructions.

2. Enormous Time Spent On Rating Too Many People
A common practice in talent reviews is to have managers evaluate all direct reports on potentials. But generating a pool of high potentials by rating everyone, even lower performers or newer people, can bog down the talent review, limit the amount of discussion on those who should be seriously considered, and cause your leaders to push back on the process. Keep in mind that the idea of a top-talent or acceleration pool is really selective—to identify a relatively small number of individuals as prime investment targets.

It is always better to limit the talent review process (or other broad screening) by designating initial prospective high potential candidates. It is of utmost importance to employ needed criteria, tools, and consensus-building techniques to select qualified candidacy for placement.

3. Poorly Defined Potentials
Even as the talent review has become a well-established process, high potential remains a somewhat vague concept. Many organizations continue to use either level- based estimates of potential, such as “he has the potential to develop and perform at two grades higher than current level” or time- based judgments such as “ready now, ready in one to two years, or ready in three to five years.” Even though these frames of reference have a simple, intuitive feel to them, they are also subject to vast differences in opinion and the rater’s own preferences and biases on what constitutes potential

Replace intuitive definitions of high potential with standard, research-based factors that are predictive of future potential. Also consider the inclusion of factors like Propensity to Lead, Brings Out the Best in Others; Authenticity; Receptivity to Feedback; Learning Agility; Culture Fit; Passion for Results; Adaptability; Conceptual Thinking; and Navigates Ambiguity.

4. Confusing Potentials With Readiness
Often time potentials are rather confused with readiness of the individual. A high potential person may exhibit readiness for a senior level role or job. While this judgement may represent nominators’ best guess of high potentials possible trajectory, such judgement are reached because there is no clear differentiation between what constitute potentials and what defines readiness. An individual may have enormous potential to occupy a position but may not necessary be ready in terms of orientation, focus, value system and result, unseen complexities and other attributes needed to occupy senior strategic level.

Nominators should be careful so as to be able to properly classify terms, design and utilize the appropriate tools and measure for determining high potentials and readiness. This is because there is a clear difference between persons with potentials and those that are ready. Even though an individual may have potentials to ensure readiness; competences, experiences, knowledge, leadership are critical to readiness.

5. Under Involvement Of Managers
Many organisations want to attract, develop and retain quality talents particularly at the strategic business decision making level. Most of the time, there is a push to make the high potential rating process very easy, relying on quick and easy rating methods that lacks the required rigour and discipline. Also observed is the under-involvement of managers in the selection or nomination process. This situation has also led to wastage of investment on supposedly qualified potentials that did not pass through the critical process of nomination.

To ensure that high potential leaders and managers are selected to occupy position of responsibility there is need to communicate vital information that would elicit their buy in, set expectations, established processes, roles and accountability that are understood by all.

Managers must understand the rating process, the tools used, the consensus building process required to effectively and objectively discern potentials of the individuals. Doing so will of elicit the interest of managers that are expected to be in the nomination process.

Nigerian ports authority will conquer all tyrannies of her growth and development if managers with outstanding potentials and readiness are nominated to occupy positions of responsibility.

Thank you.

Francis A. Ehiguese, FCILT
Principal Partner
Grand Vision Consult Limited