Farmers’ Presidential Leadership Program

The program blends technology, experiential learning, and deep personal reflection.

Edited by Margery Weinstein

To reach aggressive business goals, Farmers Insurance says it needs leaders who understand the destination and can inspire others to reach objectives as a team. Launched in February 2011, Farmers’ Presidential Leadership Program (PLP) develops emotionally intelligent, “whole” leaders who will engage the company’s employees to exceed business goals.

While the PLP is inspired by President Ronald Reagan’s communication skills, and is conducted at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, it is not an exploration of his politics or his presidency; rather, it is a study of the personal qualities that empower successful leaders in every arena.

Farmers says the program offers a “revolutionary approach” to learning that:

  • Blends technology, experiential learning, and deep personal reflection.
  • Was developed by the University of Farmers, drawing on the research of Daniel Goleman and the Hay Group, the Human Performance Institute, Stephen Dennings’ work on storytelling, and the latest brain research.
  • Enables participants to identify the major leadership competencies in the areas of emotional intelligence, interpersonal communications, and personal leadership; assess their strengths and weaknesses in these areas; and develop personal improvement plans.

Program Components

The program is conducted in a 2.5-day classroom executive leadership session that includes:

  • The Whole Leader Model (emotional, social, physical, intellectual, spiritual): This defines emotional intelligence competencies through examples from President Reagan’s career—helping participants create personal stories of who they want to be as people and leaders.
  • Experiential activities: Participants “go deep” for feedback on current performance in listening and in emotional intelligence competencies.
  • Power of storytelling: To influence and inspire others.
  • “Flight plan”: To guide today’s participants on the journey to the leader they aspire to be.
  • Health, wellness, and nutrition evening sessions: Demonstrating the connection between physical activity and higher-quality thinking.
  • Self-improvement: Following PLP graduation, participants commit to regular meetings with partners for at least 90 days.

In addition to its other attributes, the PLP makes innovative use of technology:

  • iPads are pre-loaded with materials, and eBooks can be highlighted/annotated and e-mailed to participants.
  • Polling uses iPads with results displayed on each participant’s screen.
  • A 3-D Brain app illustrates the “brain science” behind emotional intelligence theories.
  • Using an online self-assessment, participants evaluate themselves across every element of the Whole Leader Model.
  • A PLP Website has materials for further leadership development and a discussion forum for graduates.

Farmers says PLP adds another dimension to its high level of technical and customer service excellence—leadership to ensure higher performance and to make Farmers a more satisfying place to work, one led by people who are “empowered, engaged, connected, and authentic.”

Program Results

The impact of the program has been substantial:

  • Participants: More than 800
  • Reaction: 9.5 out of a maximum10
  • Behavior: Some 85 percent of participants continue meeting with learning partners more than one month post-graduation; 57 percent continue meetings beyond 90 days
  • PLP graduate retention: 98.5 percent (vs. 88 percent retention for the Claims organization)
  • Engagement scores: The scores for employees of PLP graduates increased 12.5 points (vs. a 7-point increase for the Claims function)

In addition to the business impact, participants respond that the program has given them tools and insights to make significant changes in their personal lives.

HAVE INPUT OR TIPS on this topic? If so, send them our way in an e-mail to with the subject line “Farmers,” and we’ll try to include your advice in an upcoming edition of the Training Top 125 Best Practices/Executive Exchange e-newsletter.

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