General Electric's leaders are among the best in the world, according to a new poll.
The U.S.-based business topped this year's Best Companies for Leadership rankings by global management consulting firm the Hay Group.
Procter & Gamble, IBM, Microsoft and Coca-Cola rounded out the top five.
The rankings were based on the ways in which businesses create workplace environments and processes that enable innovation.
Other companies in the top 20 were McDonald's, Accenture, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Toyota, Nestle, 3M Company, Southwest Airlines, Exxon Mobile, PepsiCo, Siemens, Shell, Dow Chemical and FedEx.
All of the top 20 companies have leaders that regularly celebrate innovation– something that can be said for only about half of the other businesses, according to the study. In addition, 90 percent of those heading up the rankings, compared with 63 percent of all others, reported that employees with excellent ideas can bypass the chain of command without the threat of negative consequences.
The top companies on the list recognize innovation is critical to their future growth and ability to survive in a fiercely competitive global market, said Rick Lash, director in Hay Group's Leadership and Talent practice and co-leader of the Best Companies for Leadership Study.
"Many companies prize innovation, but the Best Companies for Leadership approach it in a disciplined way by building agile organizations, promoting collaboration, celebrating successes, learning from setbacks and fostering a culture that encourages a passion for innovation throughout the organization," Lash said.
The research also found that the best companies in terms of leadership develop their employees to think more broadly. All of the top 20 companies provide structured opportunities for younger employees to promote innovative ideas, compared with 68 percent of other businesses.
Also, more than 90 percent of the companies in the top 20 have senior leaders who personally spend time developing others and who effectively help frontline employees understand their company’s long-term strategy.
"As innovation increasingly becomes a key differentiator for companies worldwide, best-in-class organizations are doing more to train and develop their people, celebrate diversity, reward collaboration and establish an environment that fosters innovation, creating a competitive advantage in the marketplace," said Susan Snyder, senior principal in Hay Group’s Leadership and Talent practice and co-leader of the Best Companies for Leadership Study.
The rankings were based on surveys from nearly 7,000 employees from around the world.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.