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Some Companies Open Leadership Programs to All Employees


While participants selected for corporate leadership development are generally mid- to senior-level managers or high potential individuals, nearly one in ten employers that have such programs open them to all workers, according to a global study of nearly 1,000 organizations by the American Management Association (AMA) in partnership with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp).

“To be sure, the great majority of organizations focus their development resources on high potential managers presumed to be headed for positions of responsibility,” said Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for AMA Corporate Learning Solutions, which offers enterprise-wide advisory services and tailored learning programs to organizations. “But we found that an unexpected percentage of employers offer leadership development across the board. They may feel the policy addresses the growing demand by individuals for opportunities to learn and grow, and that it thereby boosts their commitment while also bolstering overall organizational performance.”

What level of employee in your organization participates in your most high-profile leadership development programs? (Select all that apply)


Executive Vice President


Vice President




Targeted high potential




Open to anyone in the organization


Not applicable



“Directors, vice presidents and those identified as high potentials dominate development programs of this type,” observed Edwards. “And there’s a drop off at the most senior level, since presumably these executives are already members of the top management team. Most organizations believe it is practical and effective to be selective. Not only does it leverage limited development dollars, but it may also serve as an incentive for mid-level people who want to be included on the fast-track to more expanded roles.”

Edwards observed that smaller organizations are more likely to open up their development programs. “Likewise, the largest organizations would find it impossible to open up programs to everyone.”

Although most leadership programs are relatively exclusive, Edwards said, there are almost always other kinds of development opportunities more widely available. “And those who distinguish themselves in such programs may in turn be targeted for leadership ones. Everyone can’t be on the ‘all star’ team, but everyone can strive to get there.”

The study found that leadership programs benefit by the involvement of senior-level executives. “Management’s most significant contribution is their commitment, their building of the business rational for the program and their communication in support of it,” said Edwards.

AMA joined with i4cp to study what high-performance companies do differently. The study population consisted of primarily senior-level business, human resources and management professionals. These were surveyed via email and 939 usable responses were collected. Three-quarters of the companies (75%) represented in the survey are headquartered in North America; 65% are based in the U.S. and nearly 10% in Canada. Of 939 companies that responded to the survey about one-third have implemented at least one such leadership initiative and another 14% reported having developed one but had not yet implemented it.

With more than 85 years’ experience and headquartered in New York, American Management Association (www.amanet.org) is a leading provider of comprehensive leadership, management and talent development. AMA’s specialized division, Corporate Learning Solutions, partners with corporations and government agencies to provide results-oriented training solutions that are aligned with business, culture and workforce strategies.

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (www.i4cp.com) is the world’s largest vendor-free network of corporations focused on building and sustaining highly productive, high- performance organizations.


AMA is one of the most widely recognized leaders in business training, having provided corporate training solutions for over 95 years. From leadership, communication and managerial training to sales, customer service and analytical skills, AMA has developed a vast array of content and training solutions to help individuals and organizations achieve business results . Each year, AMA delivers thousands of seminars and courses across the United States. With courses offered in a  classroom near you or live online, AMA is a flexible, convenient resource for all of your organization's talent development needs. AMA also offers customized solutions based on your specific talent development requirements.