Corporate Eye

Best Company Leader Development Programs

Companies can survive poor leaders but thrive with good leaders. That’s why Bersin Associates estimates that companies spend 30% of their trainings budgets on leadership development. Many companies have their own signature programs. Let’s take a look at the best rated programs.

Leadership Excellence performs one of the most comprehensive ratings across a broad range of programs, large and medium sized companies, non-profits and government programs. I will focus on the top large corporations.

Let’s take a look at some of the internal practices of the best rated companies.

Southwest Arlines

Be seen. I have recommended this in my book and articles. People need to see their leaders. In larger companies there is a greater tendency toward isolation of senior managers.

Take an example from Herb Kelleher former CEO of Southwest Airlines; he routinely visited everyone in his organization from baggage handlers and ticket agents and pilots to flight attendants. Meet the people you support often. Don’t wait for the special events. Invite small groups to neutral area, the cafeteria during off peak hours is good. If this doesn’t work, your office is OK, but be sure that your desk is not a barrier. Move your chair to the front of your desk. Have people speak first and listen. Ask what their suggestions are to do things differently.

Capital One

Kudos to Capital One. They understand that the best leadership educators are their own senior management. They understand the context the company operates within and they have a storehouse of experience regarding how they made it to the top.

At Capital One, we have designed a leaders-as-teachers program to help develop the leadership capabilities of managers and junior-level executives, the pool from which many of our company’s future leaders will emerge. Our program generally functions on the following two platforms:

  • The Executive Speaker Series
  • Leadership Workshops.

The Executive Speaker Series consists of formal, didactic, 90-minute presentations to an audience of several hundred members, covering a broad range of topic areas. Presenters, or teachers, are drawn from the company’s resident “leadership trust” and include the CEO, president, senior vice-presidents and other C-Level executives. During the lecture segment, there is no dialogue. In short, this is an opportunity; in one hour, to tell one’s story and to paint a self-portrait in broad, and sometimes colorfully bold, strokes that says, “This is who I am, how I got here.” Lisa M. Meadows is vice president of executive leadership development at Capital One


Another company that sees leaders as teachers.

One of the components of Caterpillar‘s Leadership Quest program involves participants presenting to the CEO their strategy for the organization in the year 2020. In October 2005, the Strategic Planning Committee launched Vision 2020 and rewrote the Code of Conduct. The College of Leadership, in partnership with key corporate organizations, rolled out the new strategy and code down through the organization using a leaders-as-teachers approach. Learning sessions designed to achieve divisional alignment were conducted around the world. All leaders were involved in communicating the essence of the new strategy to their subordinates and helping them see their roles in achieving the organization’s strategic goals. (Adapted from Alex Goldsmith “Evolving Leadership, Procter & Gamble’s Distinct Approach to Recruiting”)

Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble’s
Global Leadership Council, talks about the changing archetype of a leadership. It also shares with students ways they could evoke loyalty from coworkers and distinguish themselves from their peers. There is also a message from Procter & Gamble’s Chief Operating Officer which he emphasizes the importance of values and integrity in decision making.

Additional Resources

Bersin Associates Awards


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Ed Konczal has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business (with distinction). He has spent the last 10 years as an executive consultant focusing on human resources, leadership, market research, and business planning. Ed has over 10 years of top-level experience from AT&T in the areas of new ventures and business planning. He is co-author of the book "Simple Stories for Leadership Insight," published by University Press of America.