The purpose of Leadership Birmingham is to ensure that leaders in the community are educated about current issues and challenges in our region. This is accomplished by bringing together a group of 50 leaders each year from diverse backgrounds. Through a series of monthly programs, these leaders come to know and understand more about the community and one another as they explore issues and exchange ideas. The goal is that they are better equipped with information and networks to be more effective as leaders.
Leadership Birmingham programs are designed by past graduates and experts to explore our community’s critical issues in education, government, health care, social services, diversity, criminal justice, economic development and quality of life. The program objective is to present to the participants a series of issue-oriented forums based on the belief that knowledge is a key element and prime motivator of leadership. They are further designed to elicit differing points of view regarding these issues.
Leadership Birmingham does not take public policy positions or serve as an advocacy group for any cause. As a non-partisan organization, the true impact of Leadership Birmingham is felt through the actions of its members, individually or collectively, who agree that their shared experiences have had a significant influence on their leadership roles in the community. Many of the ideas and initiatives currently in progress in the community have come from Leadership Birmingham classes and graduates.
In 1981, the Birmingham Area Chamber of Commerce appointed a Steering Committee to investigate the possibility of starting a community leadership program. James C. Lee, Jr., then President of the Chamber, named Neal Berte to chair the group. After researching efforts in other parts of the country and considering the needs of Birmingham, it was determined that the entity now known as Leadership Birmingham should be formed, and would operate as an independent, non-profit organization.
In November 1982, Leadership Birmingham was incorporated with William J. Rushton, III as its first Chairman. A Board of Trustees was elected and Sheila Blair was hired as the first Executive Director. Initial funding came from major corporations and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. The first class was selected in 1983. Drayton Nabers followed Billy Rushton as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and was succeeded by Mike Warren in December 2003. Elise Penfield became Executive Director in 1994 and Ann Florie succeeded her in 2004. In 2018, Libba Vaughan was named the 4th Executive Director of Leadership Birmingham. There have been over 1,500 graduates of Leadership Birmingham.