Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

How Companies Build Leaders

By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist

Fortune Magazine’s annual list of top companies for leaders was announced recently. The Top Companies for Leaders study is conducted by Aon Hewitt, the global human resource consulting and outsourcing business of Aon Corporation, in partnership with the RBL Group, a strategic HR and leadership advisory firm, and Fortune Magazine. The research examines how organizations choose and develop leaders, and determine if there’s a correlation between leadership practices and business results.

So who are these companies that are developing leaders: IBM, General Mills and P&G take the top three spots. Two years ago, 17 of the 25 companies on the global list were based in the US. This year: only 13.

There are five global companies that are headquartered in India in that list: Hindustan Unilever, ICICI, Aditya Birla, Bharti and Wipro.

Interestingly, HUL is at number six while Unilever is at number 19. The only company from China in that list is China Vanke – China’s largest real estate developer.

What is common to all the companies that build leaders: They all have a deep alignment of business strategy and the people strategy. They all have a deep faith in grooming talent from within. Chief executive Jeff Immelt devotes about 40% of his time to leadership development.

It is this philosophy that guides why they invest in leadership development. They take a view of talent that goes beyond the boundaries of the corporations. Indian companies, for example, tend to stress their leadership role in society, which explains why rising leaders at Hindustan Unilever and Wipro devote significant resources to building hospitals and schools in Indian communities. Aditya Birla honors employees who teach villagers skills like composting and pump repair.


What are the companies doing to develop leaders? They are giving their leaders experiences to deal with a changing socioeconomic global landscape. Those changes are putting new demands on the nuances of markets and consumers that the leaders need to know.

For example: at Wipro we work with our leaders to understand how to deal with ambiguity. Leaders need to know how to succeed in a world where they may not have all the data and answers that can help them take the right decision. If they keep waiting for a state of equilibrium to happen they will be paralyzed by indecision. Dealing with ambiguity is a thin line they need to tread between being brash and being indecisive. The definition of leadership is also changing to go beyond the boundaries of the corporation to impacting the community.


Companies are looking at using many different methodologies beyond the classroom to drive home these lessons. IBM sends SWAT teams around the world to coach local staff. HUL sends young managers to live in Indian villages so that they can understand the needs of rural consumers.

PepsiCo creates 10-year growth plans for individuals who are thought to have C-suite potential. The Spanish bank BBVA offers theater workshops to help boost managerial communication skills. Wipro chairman Azim Premji personally mentors 25-30 leaders at various levels.


The most important piece that is also the hardest to replicate is the underlying philosophy that drives our actions. At General Mills, over 90% of management promotions are internal. Every single CEO of P&G started at the entry level. If someone is two-thirds ready, Wipro will take a chance on an internal candidate before looking outside.

To summarize, what is easy to replicate. The how is tougher. The toughest question to answer is why we need to invest in leadership. That reflects the beliefs the organization has about its people. Beliefs are intangible and therefore the hardest to replicate and the greatest differentiators. Think about it.

Republished with permission and originally published at abhijitbhaduri.com

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