Purpose: The purpose of this case study was to gather participants' perceptions of the impact of Memorial Healthcare System's Pillars of Leadership Academy's leadership development programs on an individual, professional and organizational level. Design/methodology/approach: Through a mixture of in-person and telephone structured interviews, the researchers collected and analyzed qualitative data to explore the experiences of participants from the leadership development programs. Findings: The major themes that interviewees mentioned as impacts of their participation in the mentoring programs closely parallel the foundations of transformational leadership. This suggests that the goals of the Pillars of Leadership Academy have been successful in developing leaders, which provides the basis for improved organizational as well as individual performance. Practical implications: Developing leaders has been identified as one of the most pressing challenges for the future. Memorial Healthcare System (MHS) demonstrates that theory- and competency-based leadership development programs can contribute to the performance and success of individuals as well as health services organizations. Originality/value: The success of MHS overall and the contributions of the Pillars of Leadership Academy to the organizational culture and leadership provides a best practice that other organizations can follow regarding the implementation of a success leadership development program. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.