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How to Predict Leadership Potential in the Workplace4 min read

Thomas InternationalAuthor: Thomas International

Posted on: 23rd Mar 2018

This post by Ian MacRae originally appeared on


As Thomas International continues to roll out the High Potential Trait Indicator (HPTI) worldwide, a vast amount of data is being collected and analysed alongside a great deal of data about workplace and leadership outcomes.

These results were presented in a symposium at the 2018 International Test Commission Conference in Montreal [read more about it here]. This represents one of the largest HPTI studies done to date, including nearly 10,000 participants.

One of the defining features of the HPTI is it’s optimal trait levels for leadership. The HPTI goes beyond identifying personality traits and provides clear guidelines for identifying high potential leaders based on their personality traits. The recent studies confirm and reinforce the importance of personality traits for leadership.

The Process

Good scientific research involves thorough testing to build on theories and collect large amounts of data. This helps to confirm findings and improve the knowledge and understanding of the topic under investigation. Thomas International have been testing and validating the HPTI with workers around the world to ensure HPTI results and reports are valid, reliable and useful in workplaces around the world.

This process ensures the HPTI is a scientifically validated tool, and allows the continuous development of additional knowledge and resources to improve the utility of the HPTI in practice.

One of the papers presented at the 2018 International Test Commission Conference in Montreal looked at the results from a study of nearly 10,000 participants. Alongside the HPTI, various workplace outcome variables were also examined. The results demonstrated that the theoretical underpinnings and psychometric properties of the HPTI are valid and useful for North American populations.

Key Findings

First, the items and personality traits tested by the HPTI can be used in workplaces in North America. This research also involves a localisation process for the HPTI, so population norms and optimal levels of traits tailored to North American workers, leaders and businesses.

Second, this is the largest study to date examining HPTI traits at different levels of leadership. The results show very significant differences in HPTI traits at the different levels of leadership. The results confirm the importance of HPTI traits for leadership, and show the importance of HPTI traits increases with leadership seniority.

The chart below show increasing levels of each personality trait in each leadership category. This is a clear pattern which shows how important optimal HPTI trait levels are in leadership, and senior leadership in particular.

The results also show a greater spread between some traits. For example, those not in leadership tend to have average Ambiguity Approach levels. Senior leaders show substantially higher Ambiguity Approach which is essential for the level of complexity and uncertainty they face in their work.

Competitiveness, on the other hand, shows a relatively narrow spread. Although Competitiveness rises slightly higher at more senior levels of leadership, the differences are relatively modest. This is consistent with previous findings that extreme levels of competitiveness can be counterproductive in leadership positions.

Overall, this clearly shows the importance of HPTI traits in leadership and highlights that the HPTI traits are even more important in senior leadership. As HPTI research is conducted around the world, the research results clearly and consistently demonstrate how important HPTI traits are for leadership potential.

Implications for Business

HPTI personality traits are incredibly useful in assessing high potential at work for three reasons (discussed in more detail in High Potential: How to spot, manage and develop talented people at work).

1. Personality is stable

Personality traits are relatively stable from early adulthood into later life. It is a consistent pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving. This means personality is a very useful early indicator of potential at work.

2. Personality is rooted in the brain and biology

Personality comes from neurological processes and structures. That means personality is essentially hardwired in the brain, and very difficult to change except in cases of extreme psychological intervention. Unlike factors such as motivation which can change day-to-day or year-to-year, personality is a useful long-term predictor of both performance and potential.

3. Personality traits interact

Personality traits do not exist in isolation. The traits interact to form a whole, overall personality structure. Having high or low levels of one particular trait will influence how all other traits are experienced and expressed. This means it is important to look at all the HPTI personality traits in combination. The research described earlier in this article reinforces how important all of the HPTI traits are for overall leadership potential.

Getting a full picture of a person’s personality traits provides important information about making decisions related to identifying, managing and developing high potential at work.

Read more about each of the 6 traits of high potential in leadership and how the HPTI can support you in recruiting and developing your (future) leaders.

To find out more about the real-life applications of the HPTI, please get in contact on or call us on +44(0)1628 475 366.


Ian MacRae

Ian has been an organisational psychology consultant for over a decade and is the director and co-founder of High Potential Psychology Ltd. He is the co-author of High Potential: How to Spot Manage and Develop Talented People at Work and the High Potential Trait Indicator (HPTI), a measure of leadership potential, which is available to Thomas clients.

Thomas InternationalAuthor: Thomas International

Thomas International are a leading provider of psychometric tools and solutions, providing assessments in 56 languages and with a presence in over 60 countries. At the global forefront of psychometric assessment innovation for over 35 years, Thomas are passionate about empowering organisations throughout business, sport and education to make confident people decisions.

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