Blog Article

A new Best Company for Leadership – and leadership practices that don’t change

Posted by Signe Spencer

Signe Spencer

On September 18, Hay Group will reveal the twenty Best Companies for Leadership in 2013 – including the single best company.

If the past is any guide, however, this new study will reveal some leadership practices that are not new.

In 2005, Hay Group conducted the first Best Companies for Leadership study – inaugurating an important annual review of leadership in businesses around the world, and naming those companies with the strongest leadership practices.

The resulting list of the Best Companies for Leadership includes some of the best-known and most successful commercial enterprises on earth. This year’s will be no different – and you can predict the winner below.

Beyond the list, however, the study also provides revealing insights into changing trends in the leadership practices that distinguish these well-managed enterprises as they adapt to a accelerating pace of change in today’s highly competitive markets, as well as significant, long-term megatrends in business and society.

We’ve seen this adaptability reflected in year-to-year changes in the survey results that provide the data for the Best Companies for Leadership study. But we’ve also seen common themes in the leadership practices of the Best Companies that haven’t changed – themes that reflect enduring qualities of effective leadership.

1. Effective leadership is about adaptation. It’s not doing what worked five years ago; those practices might not work this year. The Best Companies for Leadership are consistently focused on adapting for the changing markets they serve.

  • The 2009 study showed that the top performers were significantly more likely to be focused on the future than other companies.
  • The 2010 study highlighted the effective leadership strategies that the Top 20 were developing to cope with rapid change.
  • The best companies in last year’s study shared a strong commitment to fostering a culture of innovation.

2. Effective leadership is more about “both-and,” and less about “either-or.” Increasingly, we find that the companies that excel in leadership are incorporating practices that some have considered mutually exclusive, and finding creative ways to resolve conflicting priorities.

  • In both 2009 and 2010, the best companies were significantly more likely to embrace “soft” values such as work-life balance and social environmental responsibility with the traditional business focus on profitability and productivity.
  • In 2011 we found that top performers had taken a disciplined and focused approach to the unpredictable and fickle process of meaningful innovation.

3. Effective leadership is about forging clarity of purpose. Year in and year out, companies whose leaders are able to clearly articulate an overriding, customer-facing purpose are more successful – in their business categories, and in our leadership study.

  • Our 2009 study, from the depths of the downturn, included three retailers (Wal-Mart, IKEA and Zappos) serving three very different and distinct markets – but sharing a laser-like clarity in their focus and mission.
  • The 2011 study showed that leaders in the best companies ensure their frontline employees understand long-term business strategies, and that employees invest time and effort discussing and understanding customers’ future needs.

Finally, effective leadership is about developing effective leaders. Many companies consider leadership development an optional investment. Not so for the consistently successful performers among the best companies for leadership. They invest in their high potentials, and even encourage employees in non-leadership roles to exercise leadership behavior.

Who do you think will be best in 2013? Click here to record your prediction for the 2013 Best Company for Leadership.

Stay tuned this year’s survey findings, based on 18,000 global responses will be announced on September 18.  These findings will provide invaluable insights to guide your organization in planning and preparing for the business challenges coming down the road. Click here to register for our complimentary webinar revealing the new top 20 best companies for leadership – and the business practices that set them apart.


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