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Talent Development Thought Leader Award

This award is presented to an individual in recognition of their exceptional contributions to talent development. Winners of this award have contributed significant thought leadership to the profession, which has had sustained impact over a number of years. This award is presented to an individual who is actively working in talent development. You may self-nominate or nominate someone else. You do not need to be an ATD member to apply.

Watch this short video to learn more.

Congratulations to the 2023 recipient: Kevin Oakes

The 2024 recipient will be announced in March.

Previously known as the Distinguished Contribution Award, past recipients of this award include: Jack and Patti Phillips, Joe Folkman, Elaine Biech, Karl Kapp, Jane Hart, Karie Willyerd, Ruth Colvin Clark,Martin Bean, Jeanne Meister, William Bridges, William J. Rothwell, Michael Allen, Beverly Kaye, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, Robert Brinkerhoff, Jon Katzenbach, Jack Phillips, Roger Kaufman, David Cooperrider, Margaret Wheatley, Allison Rossett, Roger Schank, Gloria Gery, Elliott Masie, Dana Gaines Robinson and James C. Robinson, Geary Rummler, Peter Senge, Kenneth Blanchard, R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., Peter Block, Ned Herrmann, Robert F. Mager, W. Warner Burke, William C. Byham, Malcolm S. Knowles, and Leonard Nadler.


Nominations will be evaluated on the scope and depth of documented contributions to advancing the development of talent in support of individual and organizational success.

  • Evidence of nominees’ work within the talent development field.
  • Evidence that the nominee’s work has had a sustained impact (5+ years) on the talent development profession and the individuals working in the field.
  • Evidence the nominee is a thought leader who has made and continues to make significant contributions to advancing the development of talent in support of individual and organizational success.
  • Evidence the nominee’s work and synthesis of ideas has global application.
  • Evidence the nominee’s actions, ideas, methods, concepts, or approaches influence audiences, organizations, and the talent development industry.
  • Evidence the nominee’s work, ideas, and concepts have helped talent development practitioners—and the organizations for which they work—achieve business results.
  • Evidence the nominee’s thought leadership and influence are significant in the field.

Candidates should be individuals or teams from within the talent development or related field. Elected officials are not eligible.

Submission/Nomination Process:

  • Applications are now closed.
  • Download the Word version of the application to help you prepare. (Subject to change.)
  • Submit your entry through our online awards portal.

Submit questions to:
Erin Strider
[email protected]

Selection Procedure:
Nominators will receive notification of the decisions regarding their entries by March.

The award winners will be honored at the awards ceremony held during the ATD International Conference & Exposition. Announcements of the award will be in ATD publications and on the ATD website.