The Baltimore region presents some peculiar challenges to civic leadership. Unlike most other cities, Baltimore is an independent entity and not part of a county. Thus, many Baltimore area executives have a foot in two places: they work in the city but may live in a surrounding county.
This kind of division of energies and loyalties is taxing. Ask the area's volunteer organizations or cultural institutions, which have to compete for resources from this scarce pool of leaders.
The situation would be even more difficult if not for a concept called the Leadership.
Over the past 10 years, this training program sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Committee has identified nearly 400 emerging leaders in business, government and community and helped prepare them for greater responsibilities.
During a year-long process, they receive mentoring and become intimately acquainted with the region's problems, potential and prospects. "All of these experiences mean that graduation is not the end of your Leadership experience, but only the beginning," the graduates are told.
Two-thirds of the participants in a typical class come from businesses, the remainder from non-profit organizations, government and unions. About one-third of the participants represent ethnic minorities and more than a third are women.
This kind of training is expensive -- $4,400 per participant. Yet the Leadership program has never had a shortage of applicants. Past graduates have made enough of a mark in their performance that the program is very popular. They are living examples of the many benefits of networking.
More than 300 such training programs exist nationally. The GBC program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary today, has proved so successful that others have copied it. There are now similar groups of emerging leaders in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties and in Hagerstown. The newest addition is a statewide program that is about to send its first graduates to face the challenges of life and community activism.
"I think the Leadership was an eye-opening experience for me and many of my classmates in that it exposed us to many points of views and challenged our assumptions of how the city operates," said Michael Furbish, a 1990 graduate of the Baltimore program who works for Living Classrooms.
The Baltimore region needs vigorous new leaders. Thanks to the Leadership, it is receiving them.