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The journal Chief Executive again rated its 20 best companies for leaders last year, with 3M shooting up to the top from 15th place the year before.

One thing that may account for 3M’s rapid rise was a greater reliance on peer assessment.

After 3M, other companies in the top 20 followed in this order: Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Coca-Cola, HSBC Holdings, ABB, Southwest Airlines, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, PepsiCo, Nokia, Accenture, FedEx, Infosys Technologies, McDonald’s, Caterpillar, American Express, Cisco Systems, Oracle and Intel.

3M shines because it consistently helps leaders two to four levels below the CEO move capably up the ranks, a marked characteristic since CEO George Buckley arrived in 2005.

Many of these companies, Chief Executive says, have become matrixed firms where a top-down, command-and-control style has yielded to more distributed decision-making across business units.

Asked what traits they value in leaders, companies ranked the top 10 in this order: strategic thinking, execution, decision-making, technical competence/expertise, teamwork, inspiring leadership, influence, emotional intelligence, creativity and resilience.

The top three tactics they use to attract and retain young leaders are development opportunities, compensation and benefits.

— Adapted from “Best Companies for Leaders,” Chief Executive, www.chiefexecutive.net.

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