Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Best Companies for Leaders

Meet 40 companies that excel at nurturing leaders—and find out what you can learn from them.

For our latest Best Companies for Leaders feature, Chief Executive has sought to identify those companies that excel in leadership development. In partnership with GrowthPlay (previously Chally Group), a sales and leadership research and consulting firm headquartered in Chicago, we canvas world-class companies through a questionnaire and interviews to learn what they are doing to identify and nurture people three or more levels down the chain from the CEO.

The 2016 final, top-40 ranking consists of public companies with over $1 billion in revenue, and the top 10 on the list scored within several points of one another. We also rank the top 10 private companies. Rankings are affected by a company’s reputation among its peers as a source for well-rounded talent. The percent of senior management recruited from internal talent pools is another criterion.

“I spend as much time as possible with our early-career, high-potential associates to ensure that they understand our values and our strategy and that they are being given appropriate opportunities to develop their leadership skills.”

Similar to 2015, some attrition among last year’s winners explains why previous winners don’t appear on this year’s list. Furthermore, because it would be inappropriate to compare private companies with larger public companies that enjoy greater resources, we rank large, private organizations with in-depth leadership development programs separately. Of the companies surveyed, 83% have headquarters in North America and 71% have international operations.

The majority of industries represented included professional, scientific and technical services (30%); manufacturing (25%); information, media and telecommunications (18%); and finance, insurance and real estate (16%).

For the second year in a row, GE tops the list as the “Best Company for Leaders” with EMC Insurance moving up from No. 4 last year to come in just a fraction below. Hitachi Data Systems
leaped to third, from ranking No. 23 in 2015. Among the remaining top 10, Johnson Controls (No. 5) is new to the list this year, and 3M moves up to No. 8 ranking from No. 11 in 2015. VF Corporation (No. 6) and Dow Chemical (No. 10) both held their rankings in the top 10 listing of companies identified having impressive leadership development processes.

P&G and Deloitte, which normally place in the top two positions among the public and privately held firms respectively, both experienced CEO transitions in 2015. Given that points are allotted for the amount of time a company’s CEO spends on leadership development, their scores would have been a bit lower than normal and this may account for the slippage in rank.

Hitachi Data Systems reported 100 percent internal promotions, conferring the maximum of 25 points, which raised its score significantly. Ecolab enjoyed market cap growth from $7.834 billion to $32.570 billion, which helped boost its overall score. Johnson Controls, Owens Corning and Fluor are all new to the list this year. Stanley Black & Decker returns to the list this year; the premerger Stanley appeared in the rankings several years ago. Their rankings reflect a generous amount of CEO time spent on leadership development, having a formal leadership process in place, the depth of the leadership funnel filled by internal candidates and number of the number of other companies that recruit talent from their company.

Stanley Black & Decker CEO John Lundgren likes to mentor his people, either alone or in groups, and encourages what he calls “boundery-less” behavior. “Our people and our brands, in that order, are our most valuable assets and we are genuinely committed to developing our people to their maximum potential,” he says. “I spend as much time as possible with our early-career, high-potential associates to ensure that they understand our values and our strategy and that they are being given appropriate opportunities to develop their leadership skills. It’s hopefully as motivating for them as it is for me. I always learn something in the process.”

2016 40 Best Public Companies for Leaders

2016 Rank2015 Rank
1General Electric/Jeffrey Immelt1General Electric/Jeffrey Immelt
2EMC Insurance/Bruce Kelley
2IBM/Virginia Rometty
3Hitachi Data Systems/Jack Domme
3P&G/A. G. Lafley
4IBM/Virginia Rometty4EMC Insurance/Bruce Kelley
5Johnson Controls/Alex Molinaroli5Verizon Communications/Lowell McAdam
6VF Corporation/Eric Wiseman6VF Corporation/Eric Wiseman
7Verizon Communications/Lowell McAdam
7Southwest Airlines/Gary Kelly
83M/Inge Thulin
8Wipro /T. K. Kurien
9P&G/David Taylor
9The Cooper Companies/Robert Weiss
10Dow Chemical/Andrew Liveris10Dow Chemical/Andrew Liveris
11Owens Corning/Michael Thaman
113M/Inge Thulin
12Lafargeholcim/Eric Olsen
12Xerox/Ursula Burns
13Fluor/David Seaton
13Ingersoll Rand/Michael Lamach
14Wipro/T. K. Kurien
14General Mills/Ken Powell
15Southwest Airlines/Gary Kelly15Hormel Foods/Jeffrey Ettinger
16Ecolab/Douglas Baker, Jr.
16Esterline/Curtis Reusser
17Stanley Black & Decker/John Lundgren17Arthur J. Gallagher/J. Patrick Gallagher
18The Cooper Companies/Robert Weiss18Sprint/Marcelo Claure
19Sprint/Marcelo Claure19Maxim Integrated/Tunc Doluca
20Hormel Foods/Jeffrey Ettinger20Accenture/Pierre Nanterme
21Accenture/Pierre Nanterme21Caterpillar/Douglas Oberhelman
22Cardinal Health/George Barrett22Nielsen/Mitch Barns
23Bristow Group/Jonathan Baliff23Hitachi Data Systems/Jack Domme
24Nielsen/Mitch Barns24Ball Corporation/John Hayes
25Maxim Integrated/Tunc Doluca25Cardinal Health/George Barrett
26DENTSPLY International/Bret Wise26Coca-Cola Enterprises/John Brock
27Coca-Cola Enterprises/John Brock27Huntington Bancshares/Stephen Steinour
28Paychex/Martin Mucci28Dentsply International/Bret Wise
29HNI/Stan Askren29Royal Caribbean Cruises/Adam Goldstein
30Inter RAO/Anatoly Gavrilenko30Salesforce/Marc Benioff
31Huntington Bancshares/Stephen Steinour
31Bristow Group/Jonathan Baliff
32Harman/Dinesh Paliwal32HCL Technologies/Anant Gupta
33Hyatt Hotels/Mark Hoplamazian33Tata Group/Cyrus Mistry
34Konecranes/Panu Routila34Shoppers Drug Mart/Dominic Pilla
35ArcBest/Judy McReynolds35Hyatt Hotels/Mark Hoplamazian
36Synovus/Kessel Stelling, Jr.36Ecolab/Douglas Baker
37Shoppers Drug Mart/Dominic Pilla37
Paychex/Martin Mucci
38Aon/Gregory Case38Hewlett-Packard/Meg Whitman
39Xerox/Ursula Burns39Harman /Dinesh Paliwal
40Arthur J. Gallagher / J. Patrick Gallagher40Monsanto/Hugh Grant

2016 10 Best Private Companies for Leaders

2016 Rank2015 Rank
1Black & Veatch, Steven Edwards
1Deloitte, Frank Friedman
2AlliedBarton Security Services, William Whitmore
2Hilti, Christoph Loos
3HAVI Group, Theodore Perlman
3Dell, Michael Dell
4Hilti, Christoph Loos 4Transplace, Thomas Sanderson
5Deloitte, Cathy Engelbert 5MWH Global, Alan Krause
6Transplace, Thomas Sanderson6Black & Veatch, Steven Edwards
7Day & Zimmerman, Hal Yoh 7AlliedBarton Security Services, William Whitmore
8Dell, Michael Dell 8Belron, Gary Lubner
9Westfield Group, Edward Largent 9Day & Zimmermann, Hal Yoh
10CRST International, David Rusch
10NAACO Industries, Al Rankin


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.