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Evidencing leadership potential

Leadership potential is an important skill for graduates to be able to exhibit to a recruiter. This guide provides you with guidance on how to evidence this difficult to define attribute.

The professionals and graduates interviewed in the Standing out videos suggested that certain personal attributes were important indicators of future performance. They are looking for people who are tenacious, have initiative, are able to get others to deliver, are able to get on with others very well and deal with problems when things don’t go to plan.

Management guru, Tom Peters has a site that gives some insightful views on leadership.

Leadership qualities

CIPD advises that there is no single template of leadership behaviour and in different circumstances different styles of leadership are required, whether leading a small project team or a large global organisation. Selection for management or leadership trainee schemes is designed to test potential managers and leaders against key competencies.

CIPD stresses that leadership is about the ability to influence people by personal attributes and behaviours. Before people can become successful leaders, they need certain qualities:


  • General intelligence
  • Technical professional knowledge and competence
  • Personality – leaders should be energetic, committed and understand people
  • The ability to inspire
  • Being able to listen, share and delegate
  • Self-knowledge

How to evidence leadership potential

Your academic record will provide the evidence of the first two competencies. It is important that you can articulate examples from your course, extra- curricular activities or full or part-time work that will give an indication of when you have displayed the other key attributes. Remember it is not just a matter of having done these activities, how did your input make a positive difference?

Energy and commitment

Give examples of how you have approached your course at university. Have you combined it with additional responsibilities?

Working with people

Understanding people, inspiring others, listening, delegating, organising others

Give examples from: your course, previous jobs, part-time work, consultancy work, placements, or extra curricular-activities.


Have a professional development plan. Give examples of how you have addressed areas of weakness in relation to your academic work or in your relationships with colleagues. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Knowing your personal style

Be able to discuss how you work with people.


Adair, J. (2006) Effective leadership. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/maneco/leadership/leadshipovw.htm (Accessed: November 2010).

Peters, T (2008) Definition of Leadership. Available at: http://www.tompeters.com/dispatches/010381.php (Accessed: November 2010).

Leadership is very much about the ability to influence people by personal attributes and behaviours.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) partial definition of leadership