Our Story

Strengthening civic leadership competencies.

In 1983, visionary civic leaders at the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) created the Baltimore Leadership Development Organization, or The Leadership, as we are known today. Richard Sullivan, Chairman of the GBC Board at the time, wrote: “We believe that leadership development is crucial to the quality of life and economic vitality of Baltimore. We offer this project as a service to our community.”

The centerpiece of the founding vision was the creation of a 9-month experiential leadership development program modeled on similar efforts enjoying success in other metropolitan regions. In 1984, 35 remarkable individuals from the private, public and nonprofit sectors matriculated into the first Leadership class.  Included in their ranks was future Executive Director, Jan Houbolt, who led The Leadership for twenty-five years until his retirement in 2013.

In the nearly 40 years since the inaugural cohort, class sizes have grown to approximately 60 people, while becoming more diverse along dimensions of gender, race, and organizational type.  Now, neighborhood activists learn side-by-side with investment managers and government officials.  In the last several years, the program has more explicitly focused on enabling participants to strengthen their civic leadership competencies.

The Leadership has graduated more than 1,832 alumni, all of whom are committed to making Baltimore a thriving, vibrant, and just metropolitan region. This impressive group includes two mayors, numerous corporate CEOs, university presidents, Baltimore City Council members, entrepreneurs, foundation presidents, hospital executives, and many others. 

Throughout our history, we have considered how to expand our impact.  We experimented with other offerings, including programs for new CEOs and high-school students.  And we contributed to the creation and strengthening of other community leadership programs including Leadership Maryland and Leadership Baltimore County.

Today, our commitment to the founding belief that leadership development is crucial to the quality of life in Baltimore remains as strong as it was in 1983.

View the complete list of Alumni here.

“I am very grateful for The Leadership. It gave me courage and support to grow as a leader.”