Where are the leaders of tomorrow? In politics and business, an endless line of candidates is ever eager to fill a power vacuum. But what about the people who would volunteer to lead their communities -- a task that offers no pay, little glory, long hours and a likely case of burnout down the road?
Once it was difficult to find a steady supply of such volunteers, but the search has been made easier by the movement of leadership programs blooming nationwide.
Maryland boasts a number of these programs aimed at bringing prominent citizens into community service. A statewide effort was launched two years ago to complement local training courses in Baltimore, Frederick, Harford, Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The Greater Baltimore Committee's leadership program dates to 1983. Anne Arundel County has had one since 1993.
Another of the more successful programs is Leadership Howard County, which marks its 10th anniversary this month. Since it was established a decade ago, the program has trained more than 330 area residents -- most of them already prominent within the public and private sectors -- in the workings of such local institutions as the elected government, the criminal justice system, the media and the health care network. At the end of the year-long series of monthly sessions, each graduate has gained an inside view of how these institutions operate. Just as important, and as beneficial, is the establishment of a network that puts the county's heavy hitters in easy touch with one another. Moreover, the fact that almost 300 alumni of Leadership Howard County serve on the boards and executive committees of some 160 non-profit groups in the region indicates they tackled the program for reasons other than career advancement.
Now that corporate downsizing has shrunk the ranks of managers who could be counted on to take visible roles in their communities, the Howard program is recruiting future leaders from among the owners and managers of smaller local firms. Among them are Steve Girard of the Bagle Bin and Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz of EVI Inc.
Yet the mission of Leadership Howard County remains the same -- in Mr. Girard's words, to seek "a higher ideal than just making money" and to "give back to a community that has done well" for its business executives.