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Develop Leaders BEFORE You Need Them!

For the past year I’ve been working with leaders and educators throughout the highway 101 corridor here in California to develop a new Leader Development initiative called “The 101 Leaders Institute.”

This is an alliance of organizations concerned about the future of this area, all of whom are committed to the idea of developing leadership talent. Too often we educate people in how to lead and then expect them to get the needed experience on their own. I believe that a system needs to be provided to help assure that those in leadership roles do in fact have the skill to lead.

I’ve seen numerous civic and business meetings where well-educated leaders were in charge, yet, despite their education, they couldn’t run a meeting well, or organize a project or motivate people to volunteer their time or resources.

Our solution is to network the resources of the universities, training companies and community resources so that people at all levels of society have a path to follow to gain the needed experience while practicing what they have learned.

Many years ago I was on the national staff of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the US Jaycees. My role was Senior Program Manager of Individual Development, in other words, the guy in charge of Leadership Training.

We had 356,000 members at the time and what I did was; write training programs, manage four chairmen in each state and fly around the country giving convention speeches to get everyone to use our training programs. Not dissimilar to what I do in my own company, Cathcart Institute, Inc. today. The purpose of Jaycees was Leadership Training through community service. (lower case intentional.) Our job was training leaders. Doing service projects in the communities was simply our medium for training. We wanted our “graduates” to be prepared to move into business, civic and social leadership with real-world experience in making things happen. It worked. And it continued to work for generations.

Today the Jaycees have deteriorated significantly from the 1970s. They have much less than 100,000 members and are not in all communities as before.

But then, our society’s needs have evolved too. It is not just the young people who need to learn to lead now. Adults need it too.

That is where 101 Leaders comes in. We want to use a project-based system to allow people to develop their abilities and make their marks in society.

The structure is this:

1. Hold a Leadership Summit at a place like the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and offer a powerful lineup of speakers and influential presenters. Have each university or firm sponsor a portion of the program and provide a “track” of learning for certain types of leaders, according to their own unique resources and interests.

Civic leaders would go to one institution, non-profits to another, business leaders to another, entrepreneurs to another and community leaders to another. Even private citizens with no affiliation would be able to enroll in the system.

2. When one “signs up” with 101 Leaders they will fill out a profile and be assigned to a coach or guide. That person will register them into the courses and experiences that are indicated and help monitor their progress throughout the year. (The course would be one year long.)

3. As phases are completed there will be quarterly Leader Roundtable events to interact with others in the system, hear featured speakers and interact with existing leaders.

4. www.101leaders.org will become the website home for those in the system. They will have resources there, be able to track progress, report results and ask questions.

5. A yearbook will be published annually to list all those who are making a contribution in this region. It will be laced with leadership lessons and personal profiles. A virtual who’s who for this region with a “and you can too” element to it. Sponsors and providers will have ads throughout the publication as well.

Much is yet to be determined for this project but all input is welcomed. If you have some thoughts, challenges, questions, etc. please let me know. This model will be portable once proven. It can be duplicated in any distinct region where providers are available and leaders are needed.

We must develop our leaders constantly and intentionally lest we find a crisis that lacks the folks to lead us beyond it.

Thanks for reading.


Jim Cathcart