Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred Galloway, EdD, Chair; Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Iana A. Castro, PhD, Member


CEO, Networking, Peer Group, Executive Peer Advisory Group, Executive Isolation


Executive peer advisory groups (EPAGs) are exclusive organizations in which chief executive officers (CEOs) and presidents of businesses can problem solve business challenges, discuss business strategies, share best practices, and solve critical growth and performance issues. Executive peer advisory groups are based on the premise that the collective experience and resources of peer groups empower like-minded executives to solve challenges more effectively and more rapidly than they could do on their own. A key component of EPAGs is the forum, in which six to 16 members meet, typically monthly, in small-group sessions to function as each other’s personal advisory boards. Other components of EPAG membership can include educational events, social events, leadership development opportunities, and opportunities for coaching.

The earliest account of a formal peer advisory groups can be traced to Benjamin Franklin’s Junto group, also known as the Leather Apron Club, founded around 1727 (Franklin, 2019). The Junto, at the time, consisted of 12 men who met with the purpose of mutual improvement and discussed topics ranging from politics to business to philosophy. Modern EPAGs have existed since 1950, when the Young President’s Organization (YPO) was established in Rochester, New York. The three largest EPAGs—YPO, Vistage, and the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO)—collectively have over 70,000 members with job titles such as CEO, president, director, and managing partner.

Executive peer advisory groups operate under nondisclosure and confidentiality standards; consequently, little is known about them beyond what can be found on the organizations’ websites. Executive peer advisory groups are seldom discussed in academic literature, and empirical studies examining EPAGs are limited. A search of the literature on CEO networking through EPAGs, executive isolation, and outcomes associated with joining an EPAG revealed few studies. Given the number of business leaders who participate in EPAGs and their collective power, there is a need to study EPAGs to learn about why their members say they exist and have proliferated and the benefits they appear to provide.

After an extensive document analysis, four individuals were purposely selected from each of the three organizations (YPO, EO, and Vistage) for an extensive interview that examined how their organizations’ function, why CEOs and presidents join these organizations, and what perceived benefits they receive with membership. Results revealed that the participants in this study were primarily introduced to their EPAG via referral. The participants opted to join hoping to remedy the isolation they feel as their organization’s top executive, to learn and grow as a leader, and to expand their professional network. Despite steep membership fees and a substantial time commitment, interviewees largely believe there is a substantial return on their EPAG investment and largely reported they plan on participating indefinitely. Participants reported the core of the EPAG experience is the forum, where camaraderie and trust are built among a small group of six to 16 members. EPAGs also offer recurring social and education events at the local, national, and international level. Importantly, participants in this study reported that EPAGs serve as an exclusive and confidential environment where they can be vulnerable among their peers, and vicariously learn from one another, often resulting in significant financial gain.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies