Past success and experience are not enough to solve business and organisational issues. In a VUCA*  world, all leadership levels must effectively lead and develop their organisations to become more resilient — the coronavirus pandemic and various disruptive trends have only made that clearer. 


Accurately predicting whether an employee will succeed in a leadership role is critical, but it remains a challenge for most organisations. Traditional assessment approaches are unfortunately not designed to predict whether an individual has the ability to stretch beyond his or her current capabilities to grow successfully into a new job, and change along with it and the organisation.


In deciding whether to promote an employee to a leadership position, organisations traditionally fall back on a candidate’s knowledge, skills and ability to handle their current role. What they fail to do is carefully assess the leadership capability required for that candidate’s next position. High-performing individuals often are reluctant to change ways of working that made them successful in the past, even after being promoted. As a result, many employees move from individual contributor to manager, for example, without understanding the behavioral changes and value-based transitions necessary for success in their new role.


Take a functional head as another example: This role demands managing broader job areas, some of which lie outside the individual’s expertise. A functional head also has to be an effective team player, collaborating with peers to drive organisation growth, achieve overall business goals and build a sustainable competitive advantage. To succeed in their role, they cannot focus only on short-term gains. Yet some may still compete with other functions to secure benefits and better outcomes for their business area instead of thinking about benefiting the organisation more broadly. Likewise, some business heads focus on the wrong questions — “What should we do more of?” instead of “Do we really need to do this at all?” Instead of just thinking on a tactical level for the short-term, business heads need to view their businesses through a strategic lens for the long term, a leadership critical for sustainable success. 


When a recently promoted employee lacks the required leadership capability for their new position, they will naturally spend most of their time on what they were good at that gained them recognition in the first place. However, this leads only to duplicating behaviors associated with their former position, not the expected leadership capabilities required for their new position to drive the organisation forward. That’s why the ability to assess leadership capability besides job knowledge and skills should be a core part of the promotion process that guides the selection of talent for leadership roles.  


So how can organisations improve their ability to make critical leadership decisions? They need to be able to measure the capabilities that are central to effective leadership. They also need to consider the relevant leadership context including how well the candidate’s capabilities, leadership style and expertise align with the demands of the specific role. Most importantly, they need to evaluate the employee’s future potential with a developmental lens, particularly the adaptability and agility of the employee to develop new capabilities and respond to changing leadership demands and evolving business conditions and priorities.


Mercer helps clients conduct leadership assessments in Thailand by using the Mercer 360-degree assessment program, a next-generation leadership assessment platform. It collects feedback on candidates from multiple stakeholders, including supervisors, direct reports, peers and other selected groups based on current job circumstances. We also partner with our clients to organise activity-based assessment programs to observe candidates’ leadership skills in unfamiliar situations. After assessing candidates during these activities, we provide individuals with feedback reports and development guidelines to enhance their leadership capabilities for their new roles and responsibilities. 


Through these assessments, organisations will then be able to visualize their leadership pipelines, understand their development agenda and make the right decisions about their talent. By developing a solid promotion process that builds real leaders, organisations can achieve sustainable success for their business.


*VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

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