Return to Previous Page

Leadership Development: The HUL Way

ET Cases, 5 pages
AUTHOR(S) : Vandana Jayakumar and Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

Case Preview

Leadership Development: The HUL Way


Expected Learning Outcomes

  • • HUL’s leadership development program and the core elements that have been the integral part of the program in creating the requisite leadership talent for HUL
  • • Basic premises of HUL’s leadership development program


I. Core Elements of HUL’s Leadership Development Program

1. Sanjiv Mehta, CEO, HUL, has been quoted in the base article that, “Our business revolves around great brand and great people. And great brands are built by great people.” What is the nature of HUL’s business? What is its organizational structure? What kind of leadership is required at HUL?
2. The base article states that, “Like the famed Spartan military training, HUL believes in starting early”. What is Spartan military training? What is its  significance to HUL’s leadership training?
3. It has been stated in the base article that, “Every year dozens of management trainees join the Unilever Future Leadership Program (UFLP) and for 15 months they are coached and assessed. Over half of HUL senior leadership has come from this program and it hinges on a central belief – that leaders build leaders.” What kind of organizational culture and organizational systems are required to let leaders create leaders?
4. .............


II. Basic Premise of HUL’s Leadership Development Program

1. Geeta Royyuru states in the base article, “To get that kind of visibility so early in my career is overwhelming”. What are the pros and cons for young  executives working with the top management/CEO, very early in his/her career or vice versa?
2. How does this dynamic (CEO working with a relatively young and less experienced executive) pan out in the organizational rubric of a company like HUL, for instance?
3. Would placing young executives through a battery of programs, interactions with senior executives and feedback from senior executives not stress them out early in their careers?
4. .............


Teaching Note Preview

Leadership Development: The HUL Way



This Case Flyer throws light on HUL’s unique leadership development program. It helps in understanding the Unilever Future Leaders Program that helps HUL churn out leaders at a constant pace. It also explains the leadership program’s central belief that leaders build leaders. After enabling an in-depth analysis of the program, the Case Flyer also debates on the down-sides of nurturing youngsters as future leaders – stressing out the youngsters, making them over ambitious, impact on those who
could not make it to the leadership development program, etc.

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding

  • • Stephen P. Robbins, et al., “Leadership”, Organizational Behavior, 15th Edition, Dorling Kindersley (India) Pvt. Ltd., 2013


Before the Classroom Discussion

  • • The students/participants should be encouraged to understand the nature of HUL’s business – including the categories that it operates in, the brands that it has across the product lines and the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) of such a business


Suggested Reading for the Faculty

  • • Paul J H Schoemaker, et al., “Strategic Leadership: The Essential Skills”, Harvard Business Review, January-February 2013 – To understand the skills that one can develop to transform into a strategic leader


Case Positioning and Setting

This Case Flyer can be used

  • • In MBA Program for Organizational Behavior course to explain the concept of leadership in general and mentoring in particular


Preamble to this Case Flyer Analysis

This Case Flyer discussion focusses on Unilever Future Leadership Program (UFLP). While the base article gives glimpses of the program, the questions of the Case Flyer enable a debate on various elements of the program. It helps understand the concepts of coaching and mentoring in the backdrop of HUL’s leadership development program. The Case Flyer discussion was orchestrated accordingly [Exhibit (TN)-I]................

Case Analysis/Case Flyer Discussion

I. Core Elements of HUL’s Leadership Development Program

The discussion in this section focuses on HUL’s leadership development program. However, to be able to understand the core elements of the program, the students/participants first need to be sensitized to HUL’s nature of business and its organizational structure. This will help understand the kind of leadership required for the FMCG behemoth.

• Nature of HUL’s Business and its Organizational Structure

The four main features of HUL’s business can be summed up as:

a. B2C – Although HUL’s business can be described as a B2C business, the company does not directly deal with the customers. Its products reach customers through retailers [Exhibit (TN)-II].

b. Brand driven – It is the retailers who uphold the legacy of the brand. Therefore, it can be guessed that HUL manages a good relationship with its retailers

c. Access driven – The company and its products are good only as long as the customers are able to get them easily. Access includes availability of the products, online as well as offline. The products are made available to the customers not only through brick and mortar stores but also through online stores such as,, etc.

d. Distribution driven – The products are to be made available to the customers up to the last mile. Hence, a strong distribution network is one of most significant features of its business



Exhibit (TN)-I: Preamble to Case Flyer Analysis

Exhibit (TN)-II: HUL’s B2C Business

Exhibit (TN)-III: Leadership Required at HUL

Exhibit (TN)-IV: Comparison between Spartan Military Training and HUL’s Leadership Training

Exhibit (TN)-V: Organizational Culture and Organizational Systems

Exhibit (TN)-VI: The Skill-Will Matrix

Exhibit (TN)-VII: Leadership Development Pyramid

Exhibit (TN)-VIII: Differences between Management Trainees

Exhibit (TN)-IX: Impact on Organizational Rubric

Exhibit (TN)-X: Positive and Negative Ambitiousness

Exhibit (TN)-XI: Assessing the Skills needed to Develop a Strategic Leader

Exhibit (TN)-XII: Benefits of Job Rotation

Rs 0
Product code: OB-4-0035, OB-4-0035A


This case flyer and the accompanying article, "Leader Factory", by Vinod Mahanta, in The Economic Times, Corporate Dossier, (dated October 03-09, 2014) enable a discussion on HUL's leadership development program, based on Unilever Future Leadership Program (UFLP). HUL, India’s FMCG behemoth had been the market leader in Indian FMCG industry not just with its fast moving brands but also with its leaders. While its brands are fast moving, the leaders are fast paced and highly sought after. With an eye to spot the right leadership talent required across its business spectrum, HUL identifies and recruits several high potential young leaders and puts them through a 15-month rigorous program, which includes coaching and mentoring. With planned job rotations and appropriate tutoring (on the job training) and  cross-functional exposure, the transformative and self-discovery leadership journey is chiseled with precision. No wonder, 400 CEOs in India and abroad have HUL on their CVs. What are the unique characteristics of HUL's 'Leadership Factory' that enables it to create outstanding business leaders who have been placing HUL's brands in every home?

Pedagogical Objectives

  • To understand HUL’s leadership development program and discuss the critical elements that have been the integral part of the program in creating the requisite leadership talent for HUL
  • To critically examine some of the basic premise of HUL’s leadership development program

Case Positioning and Setting
This Case Flyer can be used for either of the following:

  • MBA Program in Organizational Behavior Course to explain the concept of Leadership
  • 'Leadership Development’ module either in an Executive MBA or an Executive Development Program

This Case Pack Includes:
- Abstract
- Case Flyer
- Analysis

**Electronic downloadable links (PDFs, PPTs, Supplements etc.) are available immediately after purchase. Please use Indian Currency Option (INR) when you are Making Payment within India. "No. of Copies" reflects the number of permissions you intend to use in Classroom Discussions / Corporate Trainings.

No. of Copies
Rs 0

Related products

Request for an Inspection Copy

(Strictly for Review Purpose, Not to be Used for Classroom Discussion/Trainings)