Three decades ago, The Bailey Group’s CEO Leigh Bailey had settled into a career in banking—a logical choice for a mathematics major—when he experienced an “aha” moment. While he had a penchant for numbers, it was working in service of others that he found most fulfilling. Bailey discovered his true calling as a trainer within the financial industry, helping bank team members build the skills needed to grow in their careers. “I realized it was what I was really good at, and something I wanted to do on my own,” he said.
Bailey envisioned starting his own firm that specialized in leadership development. At the age of 32, with an infant daughter at home, he considered what was best for him and his family—a 9-to-5 with a predictable paycheck in the corporate world, or long days and a lot of hard work as a small business owner. Ultimately, he decided to take a leap of faith and pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He secured a small loan and rented a tiny office space in North Minneapolis.
In February 1989, Bailey officially launched Leigh Bailey & Associates. His mission from day one: help others to achieve maximum success for themselves and their organizations. He leveraged the relationships he’d built during his decade in banking and began creating customized training programs for organizations like American Express Financial Advisors, Medtronic and Norwest Corporation. Before long, his clients were commending the work and referring would-be clients. Business was booming and Bailey never looked back.
As his base of clients grew bigger, he began to notice common themes while coaching leaders and their teams. There were certain beliefs and behaviors that consistently impeded individuals from reaching their goals and realizing the level of success they wanted. When he helped clients recognize what was standing in their way, and worked with them to shift their thinking and behaviors, it was a game changer.
Bailey’s interest in psychology and neuroscience, and their practical use in organizational development, led him to pursue an advanced degree at St. Mary’s University in Winona. After receiving a master’s in human development, he began working as an adjunct faculty member at St. Mary’s teaching executive coaching and leadership development. At the same time, psychology and neuroscience—along with business acumen, which the company was built on—became foundational disciplines for the firm.
After losing his father in 1993, Bailey began practicing Buddhism to work through his feelings of sadness and loss. He altered his daily routine to include meditation and mindfulness—the practice of nonjudgmentally accepting present moment feelings, thoughts and physical reactions, and allowing them to pass. He also took up running and joined a choir to reduce stress. He began advising his clients to focus on their overall wellbeing as well, demonstrating mindfulness as a tool for doing so. It became the firm’s fourth foundational discipline.
Today, Bailey’s original vision is still reflected in the organization’s core purpose: Shaping extraordinary people into transformational leaders who build successful teams and thriving organizations. It is a premiere firm of coaching professionals serving leaders across a variety of industries, and specializing in guiding executives in financial services, health care, manufacturing and technology. Bailey and his team have partnered with some of Minnesota’s “best places to work” award winners such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Gray Plant Mooty and The Nerdery.
“The Bailey Group helped us through the hardest times our company will ever go through,” said Mike Derheim, Nerdery co-founder and chairman of the board. “They’ve been instrumental in empowering our emerging leaders to make decisions that keep The Nerdery moving forward.”
Over the past year, The Bailey Group announced an exciting addition to its consulting practice. New CEO clients have the opportunity to be paired with CEO advisors who are certified coaches and former or soon-to-be retired chief executives. “It’s an incredible value for our clients, to learn from a great group of leaders with such extensive C-suite experience,” Bailey said. “And at the same time, the coaching model supports sustainable growth for The Bailey Group.”
The addition of the CEO advisors to the team is the first of several initiatives aimed at shifting Bailey from a role focused solely on service delivery to one that elevates his position as visionary and chief promoter for the organization. Bailey is excited about what’s to come and does not plan to retire anytime soon. “As a firm that specializes in guiding CEOs through succession planning, we’d be remiss not to have a plan of our own,” he remarked. “This is just the beginning of a multi-year plan designed to propel the company well into the future.”