The Top Leadership Factories

I always travel with a stack of articles I’ve torn out of magazines – it makes for lighter traveling, and since much of the stuff I read is relatively timeless, it allows me to work through the readings at my own pace. This weekend, I found a 2008 USA Today article stuck between a couple of HBR articles – I remember tearing it out because I wanted to write about it in this column. Well its three years later, but the article was so interesting that I think you’ll still enjoy the lessons here in 2011. Here it is…

At the time (January, 2008) one in every five CEOs running the 1,187 publicly traded companies with a market cap of $2B or greater had at one time held a job at one of just 20 companies. That’s right, only 20 leadership “factories” had produced 20% of all large-cap CEOs in America in 2008. Ten percent had worked at just 8 companies! The Top 20, in order of CEOs, were:

GE (26)
IBM (18)
McKinsey (16)
PepsiCo (13)
AT&T (13)
Procter & Gamble (12)
Ernst & Young (12)
Citigroup (11)
Baxter International (11)
Honeywell (10)
PricewaterhouseCoopers (10)
Disney (9)
Johnson & Johnson (8)
Deloitte & Touche (8)
Intel (8)
Novartis (8)
Merrill Lynch (7)
Motorola (7)
ExxonMobil (7)

The 20th company was the now-defunct Arthur Andersen (the article did not cite the number of CEOs who had previously worked at Andersen). Think these companies are doing something right when it comes to developing leaders? Yeah, I think so… not only are they grooming future leaders for their own companies, but they attract such great talent that there isn’t room for everyone at the top of the pyramid – leaders left to spread their wings in other companies, and a lot of them end up in the top job. Pretty impressive… kind of begs a question doesn’t it – how many of your former leaders left and went on to run $2B+ market cap companies? Sounds like an interesting internal TM research project, yes?