Grooming new leaders: ‘Business Report’ announces new Leadership Academy for 2017

'Business Report' President and CEO Julio Melara, left, conceived of the idea for the new Business Report Leadership Academy after studying a similar academy in Chicago. He partnered with SSA Consultants founder and President Bill Slaughter, who will facilitate some of the academy sessions. (Photo by Allie Appel)

Rising stars within companies and entrepreneurs across the Capital Region have their work cut out for them as they develop their leadership skills, but it isn’t a journey they have to travel alone. The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, in partnership with SSA Consultants, wants to lend a hand.

Those poised to be the region’s next CEOs, presidents or executive directors—or those who already run their own business—have the opportunity to take part in a top-tier leadership program right in their own backyard. The Business Report Leadership Academy, launching in 2017, will offer a dynamic learning experience provided by area experts that combines personal assessment, coaching, applied learning, networking and thought leadership.

“To my knowledge, there’s no program quite like this one,” says Bill Slaughter, founder and president of SSA Consultants, a management consulting firm providing leadership development in Baton Rouge and beyond for more than 40 years.

The selection process will be competitive. Local companies can nominate high-potential candidates—or small business owners can apply—from Nov. 18 to Dec. 22. Thirty nominees will then be selected to participate in the academy, which consists of six Friday sessions held between February and May at the Watermark Hotel in downtown Baton Rouge.

Companies sponsor their nominees for $3,850, which includes all six sessions, meals, receptions, materials, a personal coaching session and valet parking.

“It used to be that when you were young, you wanted to grow up to be president. But many in business now recognize we have a vacuum in leadership.”

Julio Melara, president and CEO, Business Report

The leadership academy is the brainchild of Business Report President and CEO Julio Melara, who studied a similar program in Chicago and developed the idea for Baton Rouge’s own academy over the past year. He has joined forces with Bill and Christel Slaughter, partners at SSA Consultants, who will facilitate Friday sessions throughout the program.

“The leadership academy was developed specifically for rising stars and entrepreneurs to elevate their leadership skills,” Melara says, adding that while most training programs today focus on management, the Business Report Leadership Academy will hone in on executive-level leadership skills. He sees a need for these abilities in today’s world.

“It used to be that when you were young, you wanted to grow up to be president,” Melara says. “But many in business now recognize we have a vacuum in leadership.”

Education and training are vital first steps toward filling the void. Leadership prospects must be prepared, because those who make it to the top are not always equipped for the job. About 40% of CEOs fail within the first 18 months.

One compelling element of the academy involves bringing in top local executives to speak to the participants. Two big names have already committed: Todd Graves, founder and CEO of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers; and Mike Wampold, founder and owner of Wampold Companies.

Another selling point of the program is the personal assessment, coaching and development. Participants will be evaluated through Hogan Assessments, which Bill Slaughter says is the gold standard in leadership evaluations. The assessment is personality based and identifies participants’ strengths and challenges. After taking it, they will have a one-on-one coaching session while going through their results.

“They will acquire a better understanding of themselves and what can make them a more effective leader,” Slaughter says.

In addition, the sessions will cover hot topics, such as leading a multigenerational workforce and dealing with job-hopping millennials. Conflict resolution, company culture and creating a team committed to success will also be discussed throughout the program, while participants examine business case studies and build their own peer network.

While there will be guest speakers and lectures, the academy is meant to be hands on. Slaughter says participants will give presentations, work together and even have homework assignments.

“It will be interactive and interesting,” he says, “and it will be fun.”

If the leadership academy proves successful, Slaughter and Melara plan to continue the program in the fall and in coming years. Nominations currently are open only to the Capital Region.

Part of Business Report’s mission is to help its clients and community become more knowledgeable and successful, Melara says. The leadership academy is one way to achieve that goal by providing a leading-edge learning program for the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs—and helping not only the Baton Rouge community flourish, but the entire state.

“This fits into our brand and mission as an organization,” Melara says. “We’re here to help our readers and business community succeed and grow.”

More information about the Business Report Leadership Academy and applications forms for companies that want to nominate candidates can be found at

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