I recently had the honor of serving with several esteemed colleagues in selecting the 2007 Top Companies for Leaders. The panel was convened by Hewitt Associates who first initiated the research on Top Companies 2001. Hewitt wanted to discover the factors that allowed financially successful companies to consistently develop exceptional leaders. Hewitt repeated their rigorous study in 2003, 2005 and now 2007. This year’s research was done in partnership with FORTUNE –- who made it their cover story in a recent issue -- and The RBL Group, co-founded by HR guru Dave Ulrich. The winners? GE, Procter & Gamble, and Nokia head the list of global companies. GE, Capitol One Financial Corporation, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, and McKinsey are the top five in North America. What sets these companies, and the other winners apart? I urge you to download the complete study report from Hewitt and check it out for yourself, but here are a few key findings. The single most important characteristic is that the Global Top Companies make leadership a critical part of the company’s organizational fabric. As the study reports, “There’s a genuine belief that the way to propel the business forward is through investment in leaders…” Other things that set them apart are a focus on growth and globalization, a dedication to developing a global talent pipeline, a true strategic commitment to leadership, senior-level commitment to developing leaders, and clear expectations of desired leadership behaviors. And for those who doubt that they have the time for leadership development, better think again. At The Top Companies for Leaders the percentage of time spent directly on leadership development by the board, CEO, and other senior management is significantly greater compared to other companies. If you want to join the ranks of the best in the world, you have to devote the time and resources to it.