Leadership Atlanta (Leadership Atlanta, Inc.) is one of the oldest sustained community program of its type in the country. Nationally, there are more than 1,000 leadership development programs in the United States, and many of them were modeled after Leadership Atlanta.

A group of concerned citizens at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce formed Leadership Atlanta as a formal initiative to address the growing need for a well-informed cadre of committed leaders. The first class was selected in the summer of 1969. In the spring of 1970, 46 leaders and future leaders of Atlanta graduated from the nine-month program. Among the class members was future U.S. Senator Wyche Fowler, several corporate CEOs, judicial and civil rights leaders and many committed business leaders and community volunteers.

A growing regional city, Atlanta boasted an expanding economy, convenient location and temperate climate, attracting more residents and businesses. The emerging boom unfolded amidst racial integration challenges, as Atlanta was deeply embedded in the Civil Rights movement.

Driven by dramatic economic and cultural changes, Atlanta had a pressing need for inspired and committed leaders to foster a sense of unity, commonality and dialogue among diverse constituencies.

Leadership Atlanta sprang from this atmosphere, building upon this conviction: the early selection, nurturing and training of leaders was too important to be left to chance. The founders envisioned an organization that would serve as a training ground and a conduit through which people could pass and make a difference in how Atlanta worked. The model leveraged one of Atlanta's strongest assets -- the tradition of cooperation among its businesses, community organizations and public officials.

The newly conceived program attracted new leaders and allowed people from diverse backgrounds, positions and interests to assemble for social interaction, dialogue and creative problem-solving.

While many aspects of the program have evolved over the years, the idea of selecting committed leaders for a rigorous, interactive program remains the foundation on which 40 successful Leadership Atlanta classes have been built. Since 1969, a diverse group of over 3,000 men and women from metro Atlanta counties has completed this program.

The exact impact of Leadership Atlanta isn't captured by a dollar figure, the construction of a city edifice, or the creation of public policy. However, the organization's influence is apparent throughout the area, as the program has helped educate and connect many of metro Atlanta's top CEOs, educators, judges, elected officials, entrepreneurs, community organizers, and nonprofit leaders.

Since becoming an independent organization in 1977, there has been continual improvement in structure, participant diversity, selection process, program content and alumni activities and services. But almost five decades after its founding, Leadership Atlanta adheres to the same principles and values that were established in 1969. Leadership Atlanta continues to grow and flourish as this year we celebrate our more than 4,000 alumni and our 52 graduating classes.