Real Leaders

3 YPO Alternatives: A Comprehensive Guide to Selecting a Leadership Network

YPO Membership Requirements

Whether you’re at the beginning or final stages selecting a leadership network, it’s important to know what to look for and what questions to ask your recruiter so that you have clarity on what to expect. This comprehensive guide was created to guide you through 3 crucial categories—Criteria, Commitment, and Content to determine which of the 4 major networks (YPO, Vistage, EO, and RL) are best for you.


Leaders face different challenges at different stages of growth. The conversations and experience levels are just different. If you’re a large and growing company you don’t want to be in a group with leaders trying to make payroll and if you’re a SMB owner, you may feel imposter syndrome if you haven’t raised over $100M in capital before. 

3 Questions to ask your recruiter is:

  1. What are the minimum revenue and employee requirements? 
  2. How are the groups formed?
  3. Do the members share my values?

RL difference: If you’re an impact company CEO, ask, “do you have forums or networks specifically for impact or ESG-minded businesses? Is that a requirement for you?” If you’re in a traditional network, you may get called “cute”, “Pollyanna”, or “get looked at like you have 3 heads” (all real experiences).

At the end of the day, you want to surround yourself around individuals who inspire you and there’s no quicker death of a forum if this balance isn’t right.


Generally speaking, a CEOs responsibility is to maximize their return on investment with the scarce resources they have.  Forums are sacred and should be taken very seriously and seen as a “must not miss meeting” but if you end up joining the wrong network, fees can create stress and the time commitment can become burdensome. Be wary of the recruiter who doesn’t let you be flexible with your annual dues and avoid joining the groups who don’t honor their time commitments. To avoid falling into a trap, you could ask: 

  1. Are there chapter dues on top of the annual dues? 
  2. What does the initiation fee go towards?
  3. How much of a monthly time commitment is this from me?
  4. Are the financing options available? 

RL Difference: Real Leaders offers the most competitive pricing and your initiation fee (orientation fee) goes toward your first Real Leaders UNITE summit. 


Whether you have experienced a forum or not, it’s important to know what to expect before registering for a leadership network. Each network also provides more content and networking opportunities called “micro-forums” outside of their confidential meetings. Another difference Vistage has is that their groups are recruited and facilitated by an executive coach or retired CEO. This is great if you’re looking for both forum and a 1-on-1 format. A few questions to ask your recruiter would be:

  1. How many members will be in my forum?
  2. Are they member-led or facilitated?
  3. Are the annual summits included in my membership? 
  4. Do you support my thought leadership as a CEO?

RL Difference: Warren Buffet is famous for saying, “speaking can improve your value by 50%.” Building your thought leadership can elevate your brand and business development and joining a leadership network is a great way to do this. Real Leaders editors go to members first for stories and quotes to be featured in its global publication.


Joining a forum is one of the best decisions you can make as a CEO. Whether it’s the relationships you build, the insights you discover, or just the flat out energy you get after leaving the meeting, there’s a reason why forums have existed for centuries. At the end of the day, you get out what you put in. At Real Leaders, we have members in all 3 of the other networks who come to surround themselves with values-aligned leaders who get them. Regardless, you qualify for a network like YPO or not, we believe every isolated leader needs an outlet to get help with whatever is keeping them up at night and hope that this guide was helpful in finding alternatives. Best of luck on your journey.

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