The one with the best leadership development

You can’t make it a week without some list of people or companies being published either in magazines or in blogs about the best this and the best that. Leadership it seems is no different and this month Forbes magazine publishes it’s list of “Top 25 companies for leaders”. So far it’s only a summary from the website (the summary list is below) but to save you time starved peeps the effort I’ve had a read through and have some overarching thoughts to share.

It doesn’t all have to be external – using internal resources to develop your leaders whether that be through workshops or through mentoring is equally if not more valid that using external experts.

Senior commitment – numerous references are made to participation of senior managers, CEO expectations and participation. It seems the best of the best start at the top

Involvement – whether that be of managers in the programme or participants in community or charity work, getting leaders involved in a broader sphere than their function appears highly regarded

Women – several of the participants are noted for special focus paid to women, whether that be mentoring or proportion of leaders that are female

British ain’t best – of the list of 25 only one is British and then actually it’s Anglo-Dutch (tricky to work out i’m sure). Unsuprisingly American based companies do well but next in the list after the US is India.

Internal Succession – a number of mentions are made of those who successfully develop their leaders from within.

Recognition – recognising the effort not just of those being developed but also those who commit to developing them reflects well for several companies

Playing the long game – the realisation that retaining key talent and having them succeed (in both senses of the word) through any organisation takes a longer term view than ‘next appraisal’ is noted for a few of the companies.

So there it is, a summary of a summary… As with any of these lists you have to ask how they were assessed and by whom, what were the inclusion criteria and how much crafting of submission went to be considered and recognise but there are some good ideas in there which I shall present as my own reference when next developing a leadership development strategy.

For those of you who remember (and in some cases adore) ‘Good to Great’ if you read the list of the ‘great’ companies now, some of them have fallen on hard times and some don’t exist and whether that was down to their flawed greatness or paradigm shift in external factors who’s to say but the two questions i’m always left with after reading any of these “best of” lists are these:

  1. If you polled the employees would they agree?
  2. Will the ‘best’ leadership of these organisations mean they continue to be successful?


The Top 25 (in order)

IBM                                        Sends leadership SWAT teams around the world to coach local staff

General Mills                     90% of management promotions are internal

P&G                                       Every single CEO of P&G started at entry level

Aditya Birla                         Honours employees who teach villagers skills like composting

Colgate-Palmolive           The 7 day leadership event for junior employees features a business challenge, presentations by senior management & charity work

Hinudstan Unilever         Sends young managers to live in villages to understand rural consumers

ICICI                                       Assigns talent scouts to identify 2,500 promising employees

McDonalds                         The development programme takes rising stars from central functions and develops them plus exposes them to other cultures

Whirlpool                            A dozen senior execs are “innovation mentors” tasked with evaluating new ideas

Pepsico                                Creates 10 year development plans for individuals with C-Suite potential

GE                                          CEO devotes 40% of his time to leadership development

BBVA                                     Offers theatre workshops to boost managerial communication skills

Natura                                  Every year managers are asked to reaffirm their commitment or leave

Deere                                   CEO personally mentors 20-30 employees as part of their development

3M                                         Over 300 Senior managers teach on leadership programmes customized by country

Eli-Lilly                               Half of variable compensation for managers is assessed against mentoring and leader behaviours

McKinsey                            Job applicants receive coaching between interview rounds

L’Oreal                                  23% of senior managers are women

Unilever                               The top 100 leaders in the business submit development plans to the CEO

Siemens AG                       Each year 10 junior employees are named “stars of the future”

Intel                                       An internal network of executive women mentor female talent

China Vanke                       The company discourages displays of dogmatism by managers

Wipro                                    Over 100 employees have gone on to start their own businesses

Bharti Airtel                        A reverse mentoring programme sees junior employees mentoring senior colleagues about tech

Novartis                               Runs a 2.5 day programme to help managers “understand their core purpose”



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3 responses to “The one with the best leadership development

  1. Cheers for the summary Rob.

    I’d be very worried with any company which thought it does all have to be external. Kinda means they think they suck doesn’t it? All too often I think companies hugely undervalue their own people and all too often that’s because they promote a culture where it’s simply not OK to speak up. And that may be where some external help can be of greatest value, in getting to what’s really going on around here.

    Yes senior commitment is useful and as I think I proved in my career in BT, it ain’t always necessary. You just have to work harder to get somewhere without it, and when you get to that somewhere, you can be hugely satisfied that you did it without having to kow tow to the senior commitment.

    Women – most of the best managers I’ve had have been women, nuff said.

    Great to read of the long game approach by some – that’s so important and all too easy to overlook when the pressure is on.

  2. Does anyone else have an issue with Fortune when they say “All of these companies go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to grooming talent from within.” ? These aren’t examples of doing more than you should… These are ways to develop leadership for the benefit of the business – a core requirement of senior management.

    For me it’s interesting how diverse and perhaps even singular each example is. There’s no “best practice model” just the best practice for you. However, exploration, exposure & looking deeper seem to be key themes across the board.

  3. 1. Probably not
    2. Probably not

    Great post. Thats great rather than good. 😉

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