Identifying what makes for a great leader isn’t an exact science. But, each year since 2001, Aon Hewitt has done its best to pinpoint the traits shared by the best business leaders—and the companies that excel in cultivating them.
The Lincolnshire, Ill.-based consultancy recently unveiled its 2014 Global Aon Hewitt Top Companies for Leaders list, a group of 25 organizations selected and ranked by a panel of independent judges, including experts from Wharton School of Business, the Indian School of Business, PUC Minas and Ivey School of Business.
The panel relied on a number of criteria, including strength of leadership practices and culture, examples of leader development on a global scale, alignment of business and leadership strategy, business performance and company reputation to compile the list, headed by GE, IBM, Hindustan Unilever Limited, General Mills Inc. and ICICI Bank.
What got them there?
According to Aon Hewitt’s analysis, the top companies for leaders shared five key characteristics in their approach to leadership:
- Assessment. Top companies assess the whole leader early in their careers, evaluating leaders’ experiences, competencies, values and organizational fit, which helps organizations “understand the unique needs of their talent pipeline to fuel the right development solutions that move people forward faster,” according to Aon Hewitt.
- Awareness. These organizations have leaders who demonstrate tremendous self-awareness by understanding their personal strengths and weaknesses, and using this information to become more effective leaders.
- Resilience. Those atop the 2014 list build resilience in their leaders by creating inclusive cultures “where multiple perspectives and ideas are expected and fostered to help the organization meet continued business challenges.”
- Engaging leadership. Leading firms focus on identifying and building engaging leaders who “are stabilizers, demonstrate versatility and stay connected to people and events inside and outside their organization.
- Sustainability. Top companies for leaders also concentrate on building talent programs “nimble enough to respond quickly to the market demands, yet sustainable [enough] to deliver superior business outcomes.”
This year’s top companies have shown a knack for nurturing talent in an ever-more competitive marketplace, says Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Leadership Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, in a statement.
The Top 25 firms are “especially notable for the detailed tracking and comprehensive building of their talent pipelines, with special emphasis on strategic thinking, broad engagement and personal resilience—all increasingly critical given the companies’ changing and complex markets,” says Useem, who also describes “the direct personal involvement of senior managers and even company directors in their leadership programs” at top companies as “striking.”
What it takes to be “striking” in terms of leadership has changed greatly in the 14 years Aon Hewitt has compiled its leader list, and “what was exceptional [just] two or three years ago … has now become table stakes for top organizations,” adds Lorraine Stomski, a partner and head of Aon Hewitt’s leadership consulting practice.
“Those companies that rest on their laurels and rely on practices that have previously brought them success will no longer thrive like top companies do,” says Stomski. “Change and innovation are a must.”Twitter It!