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ALF - National History
“Successful leadership depends on a fundamental shift of being, including a deep commitment to the dream and passion for serving versus being driven by the pursuit of status and power.”
– Joseph Jaworski
ALF is passionately committed to building diverse networks of leaders focused on personal and community transformation in order to create inclusive and thriving communities.
American Leadership Forum Founder Joseph Jaworski
American Leadership Forum (ALF) was founded in 1980 in Houston by Joseph Jaworski, who left his successful law practice to address what he increasingly saw as a crisis of leadership throughout the country. He envisioned an organization dedicated to bringing together diverse leaders from multiple sectors in communities across the country to explore their personal leadership capacity, build deep trust among the group to help each leader get beyond the devaluing prejudices that we all hold, and discover new possibilities.
The founding leadership group included Jaworski and seventeen other prominent Americans including John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; James MacGregor Burns, Professor Emeritus of Williams College; Warren Bennis, former Professor at University of Southern California 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 at Harvard Business School; and James B. Stockdale, Vice Admiral in the U.S. Navy. Together they created a learning experience destined to change lives and communities.
In 1996, Jaworski published Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership and chronicled the story of the American Leadership Forum and the principles and values ALF embodies. For over 35 years, ALF chapters have trained and empowered leaders who transform their communities by living a leadership model organized around altruism, interdependence, and receptivity.
ALF now has ten chapters: Charlotte and surrounding counties, North Carolina; Great Valley (Northern San Joaquin Valley), California; Houston/Gulf Coast, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Michigan; Mountain Valley (Sacramento and surrounding counties), California; Oregon; Silicon Valley, California; Tacoma/Pierce County, Washington; and Waccamaw Region, South Carolina. We now have more than 4,500 ALF Fellows nationwide who bring a new sense of commitment, understanding, and interconnectedness to their disparate communities.
Global Thinking, Local Action
In its early days, Jaworski and his cadre of leadership trainers were busy traveling 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.