The leadership lift

Alumni find such value in Korn Ferry’s leadership institutes that half sponsor colleagues to participate.

100% of respondents in follow-up interviews said they applied to their leadership what they learned years earlier in Korn Ferry’s CEI and ELI programs. They said they internalized program principles, used them to coach or mentor others, and actively refer to their strategic leadership plans years later.

When presidents, royalty, and CEOs seek to optimize their health, they turn to elite medical centers’ executive health programs, where internists, cardiologists, dietitians, and others help them elevate every aspect of their fitness. The expert teams not only prescribe a regimen but also ask—is it effective over the course of months and years?

For alumni of Korn Ferry’s Chief Executive Institute™ (CEI) and Executive to Leader Institute™ (ELI) the value of the 12-month experience—even as much as 25 years later—is sustained and powerful.

To assess the enduring impact of CEI and ELI, intensive programs that Fast Company magazine called the “Mayo Clinic of leadership development,” researchers from the Korn Ferry Institute interviewed 39 people who completed CEI or ELI between 1989 and 2013.1 The executives were asked what the experience was like for them, what they had learned about themselves, how they applied those insights to their work, and what impact on their careers they attributed to the program.

Of the alumni interviewed, 36 expressed that their participation in CEI and ELI came at a critical time in their careers. Some were moving into larger roles, others into foreign regions, and still others were seeking to find more purpose in their work. Participation in CEI and ELI, regardless of executives’ current roles and pursuits, appeared to create lasting impact.

The experience, participants said, was memorable. When asked to describe the CEI-ELI experience, alumni reached for powerful modifiers: “Transformative,” “life-changing,” and “profound” were the words most often applied. Others called it “intense” and “demanding.”

All 39 participants reported that they applied what they learned to their leadership and saw great outcomes. In addition, 85% reported impact in at least one of three specific ways: internalizing the CEI-ELI principles and consistently relying on them years later; using what they had learned to coach or mentor others; and keeping their notes and insights on hand for frequent reference.

Figure 1

All CEI-ELI alumni interviewed said they applied what they learned.

100% of alumni said they applied what they learned in the program to their leadership. They also said they:

  • Internalized CEI-ELI principles
  • Used CEI-ELI principles to coach or mentor others
  • Still refer to CEI-ELI materials
  • Reported two or more of the above
  • Reported applying CEI-ELI to their leadership but were not specific

Additionally, all 39 executives said they have recommended CEI or ELI to others. More telling: 48% invested in sending a colleague or direct report to CEI or ELI.

Even leadership program skeptics were won over. “Normally I wouldn’t participate in this kind of program,” said the global chairman of one pharmaceutical company during his interview, “but I felt that I got a lot out of it. I sent other people through it and they agreed...” The chairman of an agricultural research organization said he enrolls executives when they first take on enterprise-wide responsibilities. “Core, top people on my team, I basically send all of them,” he said.

Will Mayo, medical pioneer, believed that people should “not be treated in parts but only as a whole.” Both CEI and ELI take a similar holistic approach. The programs focus on the personal growth of executives as individuals rather than teach specific management skills: Participants, as executives and others do at the Mayo Clinic, work with a “union of forces”—multiple consultants with interdisciplinary backgrounds in an intensive in-residence session followed by 12 months of coaching.

However, CEI and ELI are not right for everyone, the alumni explained. “I will only recommend [ELI] to people who are very interested in understanding themselves,” said the CEO of a life sciences company. “I wouldn’t bother with those who are closed-minded. It’s a huge investment that the company makes, and I think you can [only] help people who are prepared to be helped.”

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