6 Companies with Best Leadership Development Programs: How to Emulate Their Success
An organization can only achieve sustained success with exceptional leadership in place. But do your leaders cut the mustard?
We've sifted through the companies with the best leadership development programs to bring you a glimpse into six stellar leadership programs.
These organizations have honed their approach to cultivating current and future leaders, achieving remarkable results with their leadership strategies. The kind that don't just create managers but mold trailblazers.
The best part is that you can use them, too.
We'll explore how these top companies approach leadership development and demonstrate how to incorporate these stellar practices into your own training strategies.
🏢 6 Companies with the best leadership development programs
Check out how 6 top companies train and nurture their leaders to ensure every employee under their supervision operates at their full potential.
Spotify offers two core leadership development courses, a management app program and a leadership app program, which both provide deep dives into specific topics like inclusive leadership, distributed team leadership, or how to head up a team during times of crisis.
"We grow people, we fertilize, we cultivate, and we make sure that there's possibilities for growing or learning. Growth is our mantra, so we give all our leaders a possibility to grow in different ways. Everything starts with our manager manifesto, with our four core beliefs of leadership: purpose-driven leadership, building and running healthy teams, the courage and willingness to lead, and leadership as a group sport."
Spotify offers a wide range of self-led training opportunities. For example, leaders can choose from a library of 40+ workshops, all curated and categorized to be relevant to the business. Leaders also benefit from 90-minute booster sessions, which act as forced reflections on their work. These follow specific themes, such as unlocking leadership mind traps or building environments of psychological safety.
Virtual coaching programs and facility-led sessions on feedback, trust and collaboration, and polarity thinking are also available.
One of the leadership concepts Hedvig is most proud of is fast-forward teaming, which teaches leaders to ramp up their teams quickly to achieve results and be efficient. This strategy includes a digital team development journey where leaders learn to take benchmarking and progress measurements to monitor success.
➡️ Learn more about how Spotify handles employee development in our comprehensive case study.
Adobe launched its Leadership Circles program in 2013 to address the need to diversify its leadership pipeline, particularly within sales. The program focuses on empowering high-performing and high-potential women leaders within Adobe to unlock their full potential and advance their careers. It is designed to provide participants leadership development, coaching, and peer support over a year.
To participate in Leadership Circles, senior leaders must nominate up to 150 suitable female candidates below the Director level. This helps identify and nurture individuals with significant career growth potential.
The program covers various personal leadership practices, including defining success, leveraging strengths, aligning with values, building a personal board of directors, time management, and more.
Participants join small peer-based groups called Masterminds, where they engage in peer coaching and support. This creates a trusted cohort where participants can delve deeper into the program's content. Everyone is assigned to dedicated career coaches who work with them throughout the program to provide personalized guidance and support, particularly in applying the program's concepts to real-world business challenges.
An impressive 35% of program participants have been promoted to Director-level positions or above within Adobe, demonstrating the program's effectiveness in advancing the careers of its participants.
Circles also has an active alum community, allowing past participants to stay connected and continue their personal growth journey.
➡️ Learn more about Adobe's approach to employee and leadership performance in our comprehensive case study.
Boston Consulting Group
BCG (Boston Consulting Group) takes a unique and highly operational approach to its formal leadership training programs, recognizing the importance of transforming leaders into change agents who can drive organizational performance.
BCG's approach is based on a "design for adoption" methodology rooted in behavioral science, which aims to integrate leadership development seamlessly into employees' daily routines.
Rather than offering standalone training, BCG provides targeted executive coaching and hands-on experiences that leaders can use daily and weekly to change their behaviors and leadership styles.
For example, BCG identifies the two or three critical capabilities leaders need to fundamentally transform the organization's performance. This targeted approach ensures that leadership development efforts align with business goals and outcomes.
➡️ Learn more about BCG's approach to development in our case study.
Microsoft's senior leadership and management development path revolves around instilling a "growth mindset" culture across the organization. The program supports managers and employees in understanding that challenges and failures are development opportunities rather than reflections of innate abilities.
This growth mindset is a fundamental aspect of Microsoft's culture transformation, which is reinforced through a set of expectations for senior managers, emphasizing how they interact with their teams.
Senior leaders actively recognize and address internal shortcomings, reflecting a commitment to continuous improvement and learning at all company levels.
The program also introduces a management framework called "Model, Coach, Care," which defines the roles and expectations of managers at Microsoft.
The company's CEO, Satya Nadella, introduces the program:
"Over the past few years, we've implemented a new framework at Microsoft that is proven to have a lasting impact in helping managers, strengthen relationships with their teams and deliver success through empowerment and accountability. The framework focuses on three manager expectations: to model, to coach, and to care. Our managers aspire to model our culture and values in their actions, to coach their teams to define objectives, and adapt and learn. And to care deeply for their employees, seeking to understand their capabilities, ambitions, and invest in their growth. This framework has been incredibly helpful for us, especially as we navigate this challenging period of uncertainty and constraints."
➡️ Learn more about how Microsoft drives business performance in our case study.
Cisco's Leadership Development Program consists of several initiatives to build and enhance leadership capabilities among its managers and leaders. The comprehensive programs cover a range of leadership levels, from entry-level managers to senior leaders, based on a combination of internal content, input from universities and consulting firms, and contributions from Cisco senior executives.
The programs include:
- The Global Leader Program and Global Technical Leader Program aim to align organizational goals with global priorities, leverage local competencies and cultures, and inspire leaders to act on a global scale.
- The Business Leader Program includes highly interactive business simulations, allowing participants to apply business concepts practically and engagingly.
- The New Manager Assimilation supports new managers in getting off to a productive start. The facilitated discussion process involving employees' perspectives on the new manager fosters a collaborative and productive team environment from the beginning.
- The Leadership Fellows Program stands out as a corporate social responsibility initiative where senior-level employees work on strategic projects at nonprofit organizations. This program contributes to the community and helps employees enhance their leadership skills, bringing a broader and more global perspective to their roles.
➡️ Learn how Cisco develops employees in our comprehensive case study.
Founded in 2013, fitness app company Freeletics identified a challenge in onboarding newly promoted or hired leaders. The limited time in 1:1 meetings between People Ops and new managers was often consumed by discussions about tools and internal processes, leaving little room for personal exchange and leadership development solutions.
The solution was to create a blended learning path for every leader.
In collaboration with Zavvy's learning experience team, Freeletics developed a multifaceted solution comprising three distinct programs to create a holistic leadership L&D experience:
- Microlearning: Short weekly nudges that are easy to consume, featuring small challenges and reminders to motivate ongoing behavioral change. These lessons are practical and interactive, taking about five minutes to complete. They emphasize interactivity, application, repetition, and employee engagement.
- People Manager Roundtable: A regular peer learning activity where leaders come together to discuss leadership challenges and share best practices. This structured program facilitates the exchange of engaging experiences and solutions among leaders.
- Leadership onboarding: An in-depth learning program to help new leaders understand internal processes, principles, and resources at Freeletics. It consists of bite-sized content sent over several days, allowing new managers to navigate their onboarding journey at their own pace.
Freeletics has experienced several positive outcomes, including an 11% increase in the sense of "Mastery" after three months and 100% of all people managers feeling supported or strongly supported in their professional growth and development.
➡️ Learn more about Freeletics' journey to leadership excellence in our comprehensive case study.
💡 What are the best practices that you can learn from these companies?
Some common themes crop up when we explore how these companies have benefited from their professional development programs.
Here's how to emulate and incorporate these successful techniques into your leadership development plans.
When leaders review their own performance, they can identify areas for improvement and adjust their behavior accordingly. This process of self-reflection helps build self-confidence, develop trust within teams, and increases communication effectiveness.
⚒️ Self-reflection is a vital part of Zavvy's 360-degree performance review process, collating feedback from peers, direct reports, managers, business partners, customers, and more.
You might also be interested in our Annual Manager Self Evaluation template, which asks closed and open-ended questions to help managers reflect on their performance, achievements, and growth areas.
Coaching and mentoring
Giving new and experienced leaders growth opportunities via connections with peers or mentors helps them identify specific development areas relevant to their role. A mentor or coach provides the support required to build emotional intelligence and other essential leadership skills.
⚒️ Setting up meaningful conversations is straightforward with Zavvy's Connections Program. Creating a routine meetup takes less than 5 minutes, making it easy to stick to a coaching or mentoring schedule.
Crafting clear development goals for leaders encourages them to stay focused and motivated. This also makes it easier for leaders' managers to monitor their performance, including how it translates to business success over time.
Regular feedback cultivates a culture of continuous learning. It ensures that leaders stay on track to hit their targets—meanwhile, peers feel comfortable sharing opinions and ideas without fear of repercussions.
⚒️ Not sure where to start? A leadership competency model identifies the skills, knowledge, and abilities required for every leadership position in your org chart.
Conduct a leadership assessment to pinpoint any skills gaps, then create a customized leadership development plan to get your managers from A to B.
Leaders can learn best practices by observing peer leaders from adjacent departments in a real-world setting. Seeing role models from different backgrounds and disciplines gives leaders an idea of effective management, giving them strategies to apply in their leadership roles.
⚒️ Zavvy's 1:1s are a great starting point for showcasing best leadership practices. Using our software, leaders, peers, and mentors can set up regular conversations and discuss multiple strategies for handling real-world situations.
Executive leadership training should never be one-size-fits-all. That's where structured training programs based on specific challenges or themes in leadership come in. Access to training programs helps leaders stay focused on developing their skills and receive the support they need to hit their career goals and objectives.
⚒️ Use Zavvy's training library to select a leadership development program that meets your organizational needs.
Microlearning offers a flexible approach to learning, allowing leaders to consume bite-sized chunks of training materials at their own pace. Short and interactive lessons help managers stay engaged with the material and apply what they have learned in their day-to-day work.
⚒️ Zavvy's microlearning platform uses behavioral science to deliver short, digestible pieces of learning content. Setting up your leadership training course takes just a few minutes, which you can deliver via platforms like Slack or Teams.
➡️ Zavvy: Your 360° growth system for leadership development
Your business doesn't need to be as large or successful as Spotify or Microsoft to benefit from exceptional leaders.
What you do need is a suite of tools that simplify leadership development and incorporate it seamlessly into your company's culture of learning.
Zavvy offers the tools to do just that:
- 🌱 Employee development software: Create a continuous development cycle for employees and leaders in all ranks and roles.
- 🧑🎓 Learning experience platform: Bridge developmental gaps with our extensive library of world-class training courses.
- 🔁 360 feedback software: Gather valuable multi-source insights from peers, leaders, direct reports, self-evaluations, customers, and more to offer a well-rounded leadership assessment.
- 💬 1:1 meeting software: Set up regular conversations to drive accountability as your leaders move towards their executive development goals.
📅 Ready to develop your next generation of leaders? Book a free Zavvy demo today.
What companies have a strong learning culture?
The companies with the strongest learning cultures include Microsoft, Spotify, Adobe, and Cisco. They have all invested heavily in developing effective leaders through formal training programs, mentorship initiatives, and self-reflection activities. However, bear in mind that these are famous brands, meaning that their leadership development strategies have been studied and documented in detail. But with the right tools and commitment, any business can create a successful learning culture and set its leaders up for success.
What is an example of a leadership development program at a company?
An excellent example of a leadership development program is the one in place at Freeletics. The company identified its biggest training challenges: employees and leaders didn't have time to train and quickly forgot the material they had learned. By acknowledging this problem and switching to microlearning, they were able to provide their leaders with short bursts of information that they could easily remember and act upon. The result was increased performance across the board, with employees feeling more confident and motivated while meeting their objectives.
How do I implement a leadership development program?
Implementing a leadership development program requires planning, commitment, and the right tools. First, identify your organization's training needs and develop a leadership program specifically tailored to meet those needs. Make sure you have the resources in place to deliver the program.
For example, you might use technology like Zavvy's 1:1 meeting software, training library, and microlearning platform to create an engaging learning experience for your leaders. Finally, build a culture of collaboration and continuous feedback so your leaders can learn from each other and stay on track to meet their objectives. By taking these steps, you'll be well on your way to developing a strong leadership program for your business.