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Opinion
WYPR's Senior News Analyst opines on recent Maryland news.

How To Foster LEADERs

Thirty years ago, a handful of Baltimoreans decided to stop worrying about leadership and did something to promote it.

Tired of seeing good ideas die, Baltimore businessmen set their minds to changing the climate. The Anti’s were too powerful. The city needed knowledgeable advocates.

The Greater Baltimore Committee, itself the product of leaders in search of allies, formed a school for people eager to help their city. The GBC’s LEADERship program was born. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Brian Rogers of T. Rowe Price are among the graduates. Some 1,200 others have completed the course over the program’s 30 years since then.

These men and women were introduced to the nuts and bolts of city government, public education, hospitals, law enforcement and other aspects of city life. It was hoped they would be an antidote to negativity.

GBC head Clarence Miles was pre-eminent city father. He had founded a law, Miles and Stockbridge. And his skills helped land a baseball team soon to be named the Baltimore Orioles. He wrote about the city’s negative syndrome in his memoir:

“Many worthy projects were failing, not because opposition was strong, but because general support was woefully weak. Special interests had stronger voices than the majority who stood to benefit…Plans met with indifference and then with failure. Influential civic leaders who cared about improvements were failing to provide the essential impetus for change.”

Miles and Columbia’s founder and urban visionary, Jim Rouse, had willed the GBC into existence. Some years later, the GBC established the LEADERship program.  You could wait for leaders. Or you could reach out for and nurture them.

Companies now dispatch talented employees to the 10-month program.  As with GBC membership itself, the program requires a commitment of money: $7,250 per aspiring leader. Scholarships are provided for those who can’t pony up the tuition.

Mark Furst, CEO of the United Way of Central Maryland, told The Sun’s Jamie Smith Hopkins of a police ride-along that gave him a better understanding of police community relations – and frictions.

What have these leaders shown over the years? You can fight city hall, but you can help if you know what you’re doing.

Your comments are welcome at fsmith@wypr.org.