The High-Potential Leader – Ram Charan [Book Summary]

by Nick

Well-known leadership specialist Ram Charan and his co-author Jerry Willigan describe five essential skills that a potential leader must learn. This book has three significant differences from most work on leadership.

The author talks about decades of experience in mentoring and training world business leaders.

He focuses on techniques and methods for the rapid development of leadership skills, as the need for leaders is becoming more acute.

Finally, at the end of each chapter, Charan gives a detailed checklist that helps them develop these qualities and put them into practice.

This book is available as:

Audiobook | eBookPrint

Leaders Wanted

Organizations are increasingly looking for people with “high leadership potential.” The transition to the digital economy, work with big data, and other radical changes present new requirements for current and future leaders. These people must be flexible, creative, courageous and action-oriented.

Ram Charan says that they need to have a good reaction and be able to communicate effectively, ask for help if necessary, and think strategically. They should see the big picture of what is happening and think primarily about achieving the goal, and not just about money.

The Summary you might like: Think Long

“It is time for leaders to succeed in the face of endless change, complexity and uncertainty. In many companies, such people vegetate at the lower levels of the hierarchy. It’s necessary to look for them, develop and find ways to use their talents … and this should be done quickly. ”

Look for such people both inside and outside the company. Without delay, help them quickly develop their qualities. For example, General Electric regularly conducts certifications aimed at finding people with leadership potential. For each such employee, the company develops an individual development plan, providing, in particular, the appointment to senior positions in an unusual field for them.

“The professionalism of the employees you hired, their relevance to your positions and their ability to work together largely determine both your own success and the success of the company as a whole.”

If you are striving for a leadership position, do not wait until you are invited. Take responsibility for your career on yourself. If you possess the qualities of a leader, you will be able to set others around you to achieve high results. Do not waste your abilities and energy, striving for leadership, if it is not in your blood. If you really want to become a top manager, you will need to develop five important qualities in yourself.

1. Use Time More Productively

You need to learn how to manage your time. Otherwise, its lack will limit you more than any other circumstance. The first step to effective time management is to involve those who know the business better than you and delegate authority to them.

“Employees with high leadership potential are able to see the full picture of what is happening, present an intelligent map with all the relationships and find creative ways to rebuild it.”

Focus on the main factors that drive your business forward, strengthen your influence by inspiring employees to work more efficiently. Set absolutely clear goals. Set priorities based on the market situation and projects that are directly related to the achievement of your goals. Respect the priorities of superiors, but do not hesitate to protect yours. Select tasks and responsibilities that you can delegate to subordinates. Assign responsibility for the results of work not to the team, but personally to people who are busy with the task. Conduct coaching with employees, answer their questions. Give them the opportunity to organize work at their discretion, but regularly check the results and remove obstacles that interfere with them.

“Regardless of whether you aspire to become an entrepreneur or not, if you act as an entrepreneur planning your career, this will give you a big advantage in modern conditions.”

Save time by reading news announcements using filters and online services with a summary of books and articles. View mail only after you’re done with the most important things. Get rid of unnecessary formalities and meetings. Create rules for workflows – such as processing information flows. Colin Powell, a US Army politician and general, used the “40–70 rule”. According to this rule, a decision must be made no sooner than you have 40% of the necessary data, but no later than receiving 70% of the data. Otherwise, you may wait too long and miss the chance.

2. Multiply the Energy and Skills of Colleagues

People should be your priority. Look for talent everywhere and hire the best. Quickly fire those who are unable to succeed. Do not make hasty conclusions in the first minutes of communication. When you evaluate the level of interest of the interlocutor, his ability to cooperate and friendliness, be sure to discuss your impressions with colleagues. Having found out what are the strengths of the employee, what skills he knows best, use them and develop how sports trainers do it. To give employees the opportunity to grow, challenge them. As they move forward, provide regular and honest feedback on their work, strengths, and weaknesses.

“Plan the path of your development, bearing in mind two things – career achievements and life satisfaction.”

Learn to give personal advice and feedback, recognize the merits of team members. Without these skills, you will not become an effective leader. If, despite the help and support, the quality of the employee’s work does not grow, look for a more suitable position for him, and as soon as possible.

Help subordinates see the whole picture, and not just the part that relates to their own posts, departments, and projects. Encourage collaboration across departments by encouraging collaboration and the sharing of experience and knowledge. Sajan Pillai, CEO of UST Global, an IT services and solutions provider, regards the ability to be an “integrator” as a must for every aspirant for senior management positions. Integration involves bringing people together into a single team, it energizes and creates additional profit. Look for “integrators” and put them at the head of mixed teams.

3. Become a Master in Putting Forward and Translating Ideas

Test and hone your ideas before submitting them to a general discussion. Ask yourself which client will benefit from this idea and what additional value it creates for them. Think about whether the idea has the potential to become a “platform” for building a network of people who will participate in the development of this idea. Is it possible to quickly scale it? How will your competitors react? What resources do you need? What obstacles are in your way? Is there a good market situation? Are people ready for your idea? How will she make money for you, generate profits and financial flows?

“Your growth rate depends on what and how efficiently you learn.”

If you have answers to these questions, submit an idea for discussion. Perform confidently regardless of your position in the service hierarchy. Imagine what will change after the implementation of your idea. Think about whether external economic and geopolitical factors and industry standards can help you or, conversely, prevent them. For example, Ted Turner had to convince the Federal Communications Commission that the current rules needed to be changed; only after that, he was able to create a cable channel CNN.

“Talking once a week or two with people who do not belong to your usual circle of friends … you remain sharp-eyed and energetic.”

To implement the idea in life, decide on the necessary budget. Think about how to transform existing processes for its implementation. The realization of the idea requires the implementation of the entire sequence of necessary steps, and, as a rule, this task cannot be delegated to anyone. Set clear goals, prioritize, set exact deadlines. Keep in touch with your team constantly to anticipate what difficulties will arise – then it will be easier for you to deal with them. Ask detailed questions without avoiding difficult topics, listen to answers, and act decisively. Mark and often reward the right actions.

4. Learn as Much as Possible About Customers, Competitors, and the Market as a Whole.

Leave the office, communicate with customers, learn more about competitors and the environment in which you operate. Read the news, get acquainted with industry websites, follow the actions of competitors. So you will be able to notice changes in time that can affect your business. Thoroughly learn how people learn about your business, first become potential and then real customers. Observe how customers use your goods or services, understand why they stay or, conversely, leave. Develop a flair for what the market requires. Do not rely only on data. Talk with consumers, watch them to understand their behavior.

“People with high leadership potential are able to absorb tons of information from a variety of sources, instantly highlighting the important for themselves.”

Kishore Biyani, a major Indian businessman working in the fashion industry, is carefully studying Indian society. Over time, it becomes more liberal, and Biyani manages to notice the slightest changes before competitors. He uses his observations when creating new collections, thus gaining a competitive advantage.

“The best leaders think conceptually and broadly, while never forgetting that discipline is needed to execute a strategy.”

Pay attention to the income of competing companies, to whom they hire, how they spend money and with whom they build partnerships. Take a look at the personal qualities of their leaders. By gathering this disparate information together, you can understand their goals and direction of development. In 2016, Uniqlo, a clothing retailer, sent employees to its stores and competitor stores to make observations, find problem spots and new opportunities. The result was a change that saved the company time and helped it to become better. In addition, Uniqlo management was able to understand why one of its main competitors, Zara, is much faster in introducing new models to the market.

“By giving personal attention to helping others use and develop their abilities, you release energy.”

The farther, the more actively whole platforms participate in the competition. For example, GE and Apple are attracting many external partners to ensure the growth and dominance of their platforms in the market. If you get a chance to join a similar platform, do not miss it, even if your competitors are already participating in its work.

“Only with real personal commitment will you constantly spend time and effort in ensuring that each of the posts in your subordination is occupied by the best specialist.”

Both opportunities and threats can arise both within the industry and outside it. During a period of rapid changes in the market, you should look at the company through the eyes of shareholders, taking into account the views of those who are actively speaking about what is happening: they may have seen a danger on the horizon that you do not notice. Follow the work of scientists, the actions of politicians. So you will always be aware of scientific, technological, social and legislative changes that may affect your business.

5. Develop Thinking Skills

Look at the world with open eyes, build networks of contacts, keep curiosity. Communicate with your industry and other sectors that inspire you. Learn constantly, or your development will stop. Explore more actively, think deeper, turn knowledge into insights. Devote at least half an hour a day to reading. No other type of obtaining information brings so much benefit, helps to keep abreast of changes and does not introduce in such detail the areas outside your business interests. Expand your horizons with extensive online learning materials – tutorials, TED lectures, and YouTube videos.

“To develop the abilities of employees with high leadership potential, to find positions or tasks that they can take to make a big step forward in their development is one of your most noble tasks.”

Do not deny that you have prejudices, and check if your assumptions are true. Consider someone else’s point of view. Former Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg has transformed his company from a small player in the telecom market to an industry leader, having managed to clearly understand the position of the Federal Communications Commission. So he earned the respect of the members of the commission and got the opportunity to work with them on the concept of liberalization of the industry. The results were beneficial to both consumers and Verizon Corporation.

Take Responsibility for Your Growth

Plan and direct your career. Change positions and employers not for the sake of money, prestige and other external reasons, but for the sake of training, meeting professional interests and following your plan. Strive for “exponential” career advancement, thanks to which you can test and develop your abilities. Look for difficulties, not familiar tasks and guaranteed success. For example, if you manage sales in a region and are able to take control of three regions, that’s great. However, the best next step may be to manage a specific product line.

This will be a more difficult task for you and will allow you to learn new skills. Work abroad will force you to review many settings and will provide an opportunity to acquire new knowledge. Change position only after how do you become a pro at your current position. Do not give up appointments that seem a step to the side; consider such a proposal if it promises new perspectives and personal growth.

Find a mentor for yourself. Work with leaders who seek to train and develop their subordinates. If in the current company you cannot take a step up, leave. Use the online dating network and the Internet to find work. Look for vacancies in companies known for valuing talent and helping them. Leave from the previous place beautifully. Maintain good relationships with former employers. Starting to work in a new place, listen carefully and build trusting relationships. Remember: what worked in the previous organization may not work in the current one.

Maintain a balance between work and personal life. The work itself can be a reward and inspiration, so choose a career that will satisfy “both mind and soul.” You need an activity that has a meaningful goal and is full of meaning.

Progress of Employees With High Leadership Potential

Think about what type of leaders your company needs — now and in the future. Create a leadership reserve and provide opportunities for development for its members by setting difficult tasks and offering more serious responsibilities. Select future leaders, focusing not on their knowledge in any special field and IQ, but exclusively on leadership qualities. Create a committee to search for employees with “high leadership potential”. Set them tasks that require more than their current level, and contribute to further growth.

Most employees with leadership potential strive for rapid career advancement. If not, they can leave the company. Provide these people with a coach – your own or from outside. Encourage them to learn – formal and informal. Reward talent leaders. Follow the progress of each employee with “high leadership potential”. Note the ability of each of them to motivate colleagues, think strategically, and gain trust. Work with those who show a penchant for “roundabout maneuvers” or ascribe to themselves other people’s merits. Tell employees with “high leadership potential” about your plans for them. Meet with them and their leaders regularly to discuss their successes.


  • Rapid changes in the economy have led to a shortage of leaders and increased demand for young leaders.
  • A person becomes an outstanding leader over time – through practice, working with mentors and coaches and completing tasks that exceed his current level in complexity.
  • If you want to become a leader, take control of your own career into your own hands. Do not wait for invitations.
  • Work daily to develop the five skills a person with leadership potential needs. First, learn to manage your time. Lack of time can ruin your plans.
  • Secondly, help your subordinates develop.
  • Thirdly, test your ideas, express them boldly and learn to bring them to life.
  • Fourth, learn constantly. Communicate with customers, explore competitors and the environment in which your company operates.
  • Fifth, learn to think and draw conclusions. To do this, look at the world with open eyes, keep curiosity, create a network of personal connections.
  • Ensure a healthy balance between success at work and success in your personal life.
  • To accelerate the development of leaders, encourage employees with “high leadership potential” to take on increasingly complex tasks.

Why You Should Read “The High-Potential Leader”

  • To obtain a leadership position
  • To become a top manager
  • To create your own company and be your own boss

This book is available as:

Audiobook | eBookPrint