High Potentials
and Learning Agility

Recently the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) conducted a webinar on the research related to high potentials. While the session addressed a variety of questions, one central topic addressed some of the characteristics of high potentials.

A characteristic that got some attention was learning agility.

The presenter, George Hallenbeck, said the essence of learning agility is “learning to learn.” CCL research captured four motivational/attitudinal (willingness) and ability characteristics of an agile learner:

• Seeks opportunities to learn (willingness)
• Seeks and uses feedback (willingness/ability)
• Learns from mistakes (ability)
• Open to criticism (willingness)

Their research further indicated that individuals high in learning agility:

• Outperform peers
• Learn new information more quickly
• Learn how to interact more effectively
• Adapt well to working globally
• Get promoted more frequently
• Are less likely to derail
• Demonstrate high potential

While the presenter talked about what learning agility will do (e.g. “allow you to make the most of the experiences you have in life”), he also noted what it will not do:

♦ Make you immune to failure
♦ Allow you to achieve every goal you set
♦ Make you the “best” at something
♦ Position you as the “go to” source for every problem that occurs

While experience is often viewed (resumes and interviews) as a basis for meeting job requirements, the research indicates that how one uses and learns from that experience is what’s really important.

In addition, while integrity usually ranks at the top of the list of characteristics of effective leaders, agility surely falls in the top three or four.


How is your organization looking at learning agility?
What are you doing to see who is high in learning agility and who’s not?
How are you developing individuals’ learning agility?