The American Leadership Forum (ALF) was founded in 1980 by Joseph Jaworski, who left his successful law practice to address what he increasingly saw as a crisis of leadership taking place throughout the country. His vision was to establish a national organization dedicated to bringing together leaders from various sectors in communities across the country to develop their leadership skills and capacity, and strengthen their commitment to work together on public issues.
After a year of meeting with leaders from across the United States, Jaworski and seventeen other prominent Americans launched the American Leadership Forum with this vision in mind. This group, many of whose members still serve as ALF advisors, included John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; James MacGregor Burns, Professor Emeritus of Williams College; Warren Bennis, former Professor at USC and respected author; Tom Bradley, former mayor of Los Angeles; Harlan Cleveland, former ambassador to NATO and President of the World Academy of Art & Science; Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, and James B. Stockdale, Vice Admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Through the vision of this group, ALF began in 1980 to address a need for more skillful, more ethical, more effective leadership on a local basis. They were convinced that if a cross-section of a community's business, elected, academic, minority and religious leadership could be brought together to work on public issues, no problem would be beyond solution. In 1996, Joe Jaworski published a book, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, in which he chronicles his efforts to build the American Leadership Forum and explains the principles and values that ALF embodies.
Now a national organization with chapters established in Charlotte, North Carolina; Northern San Joaquin Valley (Great Valley), California; Houston/Gulf Coast, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento (Mountain Valley), California; Silicon Valley, California; Tacoma, Washington; Waccamaw Region, South Carolina; and Michigan; more than 3,500 ALF Fellows throughout the country have completed the original program, bringing to their disparate communities a new sense of commitment, understanding and interconnectedness.
In its early days, Jaworski and his cadre of leadership trainers were busy travelling the country, talking about their vision for engaged community leadership, establishing ALF chapters and developing their program. In each community, they brought together diverse senior-level leaders from all sectors to establish bonds that would promote creative collaboration. Several of these leaders stepped up to establish a chapter and tap into the network. Slowly, the ALF Fellows program was born and began to multiply. In its early years, ALF maintained a central office with a staff of trainers that traveled the country and delivered the Fellows program.
As the network of chapters grew, however, it became increasingly important that the nexus of the organization reside where the action was -- in local communities. The ALF chapters began to make the Fellows program their own, responding to local needs and building on the knowledge of local experts in community issues. Today, each chapter tailors the program and participant selection to build its own regional leadership capacity. The chapter network continues to work on a national level, pushing the collective thinking on regional community leadership.