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Tapping into Influential Business Leaders with CEO Academy

Connecting with executives to drive change in organizations

​The last quarter of 2022 proved to be an incredibly exciting time as SHRM announced its acquisition of two companies: Linkage, a global leadership development firm that focuses on advancing women and accelerating inclusion for executives, managers and organizations, and CEO Academy, the premier academy for chief executives and board leaders.

Why CEO Academy? There is a certain synergy between SHRM and CEO Academy that drove the acquisition, sparking from one specific and compelling common denominator: the importance of people.

CEO Academy has a rich history spanning more than 20 years. In partnership with the prestigious Wharton School, the program has trained over 600 chief executives and board leaders across the globe.

When thinking about business icons like Bob Iger, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, or Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, it is difficult to envision them as first-time leaders. Although they catapulted into the top seat, they did not make the leap overnight. In fact, they spent countless hours in rigorous leadership and professional development training to prepare for their current roles. 

Without proper development, CEOs and board leaders may face more challenges than anticipated. In the past two decades, 30 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have stayed in their leadership roles less than three years. Top executive failure rates range from a high of 75 percent to less than 30 percent. Chief executives' tenure now paces at 7.6 years on a global average, down from 9.5 years in 1995. According to the Harvard Business Review, 2 out of 5 new CEOs fail in their first 18 months on the job. This is detrimental not only to these developing leaders, but also to their companies, employees and shareholders. This is the opportunity CEO Academy will leverage to shape the next generation of leaders in the world. 

As a SHRM-certified or aspiring SHRM-certified HR professional, you are familiar with the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge (SHRM BASK) and understand how the acquisition of CEO Academy fits appropriately within the Leadership and Business Acumen competencies. You recognize it is important to possess leadership characteristics to achieve new heights and be an effective contributor. Having a strong business acumen and understanding how your business operates are paramount to the success of your HR practice. Similarly, for those who participate in CEO Academy—especially as first-time CEOs or board leaders—it is important for them to develop critical leadership qualities and refine business acumen prowess to ensure their organization's overall competitive advantage.

CEO Academy has developed an intensive program to educate CEOs and board leaders on what to expect from all aspects of the job. For over 20 years, CEO Academy has been training CEOs and board leaders annually in New York City by enlisting powerhouse groups, made up of former CEOs and the brightest thought leaders from the Wharton School and McKinsey & Co., to educate the next generation of leaders through the program. Starting in 2023, CEO Academy will be offered biannually. Its marquee program is offered in New York City, and its newest offering will occur in San Francisco. The team of educators this year features industry greats including these leaders:

  • Frank Blake, retired chairman and chief executive officer, The Home Depot.
  • Greg Brown, chairman and chief executive officer, Motorola Solutions Inc.
  • Alex Gorsky, former chairman and chief executive officer, Johnson & Johnson Inc.
  • Alan Mulally, former president and chief executive officer, Ford Motor Company.
  • Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer, SHRM.
  • Tiger "NV" Tyagarajan, president and chief executive officer, Genpact.
  • Maggie Wilderotter, chairperson, DocuSign.

At a high level, CEO Academy focuses on strategy, innovation, growth, finance, talent, compensation, succession, governance and other pressing issues facing chief executives, successors and board leaders. Over the years, CEO Academy has identified one primary concern that keeps CEOs up at night: the talented people at their respective organizations. Without its people, an organization may not be able to serve its purpose. Under SHRM's leadership, CEO Academy expands its focus to provide an elevated experience to CEOs and board leaders. The additional emphasis highlights the importance of human capital, and SHRM will serve as the go-to resource for all people and strategy needs.

The evolution of CEO Academy will be an interactive process as SHRM engages business elites to shine the spotlight on the importance of people and talent. People are the lifeblood of organizations, and HR is a vital part of overall business operations. Through SHRM's acquisition of CEO Academy, we continue to elevate the profession and prove HR is one of the most important catalysts for effective business strategy and innovation. Through this work, at CEO Academy and SHRM, we can continue to create better workplaces for a better world.

Christopher Lopez is director, CEO Academy, SHRM.

For more information about CEO Academy, please visit


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