Unravelling leadership potential: conceptual and measurement issues

Sophie I.M. Bouland-van Dam*, Janneke K. Oostrom, François S. De Kock, Anton F. Schlechter, Paul G.W. Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The status quo of the leadership potential literature is best represented as a “hot mess” of conceptual and measurement issues. In our view, the prior literature tends to conflate different constructs (i.e., predictor constructs, job-related leader behaviours, and organizational outcomes) that need to be unravelled in order to lay the foundation for future leadership potential research. To advance the field, we conduct a systematic literature review and apply a personnel selection lens to recent (35 years; 62 studies in 31 journals) leadership potential research. Our study contributes to the literature by (a) disentangling various constructs related to leadership potential and (b) proposing a guiding framework to classify and select constructs and measures for future research. Drawing on a construct and criterion validation framework widely used in personnel selection, we identify six core themes that link to construct-based theory development and disentangle various constructs in the predictor and criterion domains related to leadership potential. Specifically, our framework proposes that leadership potential is a referential concept rather than a stand-alone construct. Therefore, leadership potential research should focus on the measurement of valid predictor constructs that relate to future growth in leadership effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology
Early online date3 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jul 2020


  • individual growth
  • Leadership potential
  • personnel selection
  • validity


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