Companies looking to develop the next generation of business leaders should extend their search beyond the usual suspects, advises a new article from McKinsey & Co.

The best talent doesn’t always rise to the top, ready to be harvested and placed in leadership roles. Sometimes it takes a more proactive approach, the article says, requiring companies to hunt, fish and trawl to identify employees with hidden leadership potential.

  • Hunt: Actively seek out promising individuals not currently on your list of high potentials. Target employees who have demonstrated strong performance in a particular area. Many personnel databases enable scans of employees’ educational and training background, work history, and leadership experiences outside the organization.
  • Fish: Use “bait,” i.e., awards for people who demonstrate specific skills such as innovation or problem-solving. Successful fishing depends on choosing the right bait, knowing what leadership attributes are needed and designing a program accordingly.
  • Trawl: Leadership capabilities are sometimes more apparent to peers and subordinates than to those at the top. Ask people to nominate colleagues who have particular talents, or survey employees to determine which individuals play vital and influential roles, regardless of their official positions.

For more information, see “Finding Hidden Leaders.”