History & Purpose
The idea for a statewide leadership development program in Georgia was first proposed back in 1971 during an informal conversation between several key business leaders at a Georgia Chamber of Commerce meeting. This visionary group included Pat Pattillo, then-president of the Georgia Chamber, business leader Jim Lientz Sr., Rogers Wade of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, and community visionary J.W. Fanning, who would eventually serve as the program’s longtime advisor and guiding hand.
The first class of Leadership Georgia started in 1972 and included aspiring leaders from across the state. One of the more famous members of that charter class was future U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, who at the time was a young lawyer from Perry, Ga. The story goes that Nunn was inspired to run for the Senate shortly after attending his first Leadership Georgia program.
During LGA’s first few years, program participation was limited solely to individuals who were chosen based upon their leadership potential. But after much prodding by Fanning’s wife, Cora Lee Fanning, the program was expanded to include spouses. Cora Lee insisted that married participants in Leadership Georgia often perform community service as a team and therefore should be allowed to go through the leadership program together.
Today, her influence lives on. Leadership Georgia is one of the few statewide programs of its kind to include – and even stress – spousal participation (although unmarried participants are just as much a part of the program, too). Another key focus of Leadership Georgia is diversity among its members.
Each year, the selection process strives for a balance of participants from every corner of the state as well as those from all walks of life – including different occupations, gender, culture and race. The central belief and philosophy behind this diversity goal is that each Leadership Georgia class can learn so much more from each other’s different perspectives as well as how to work together as one united force for Georgia’s best future.
From its fledgling beginning, Leadership Georgia has grown into one of the most successful state leadership programs in the country. With the exception of one paid staff position, the organization today is run entirely by an all-volunteer board of trustees and advisor. The organization also retains its strong affiliation with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, with which it shares office space in downtown Atlanta.
More than 3,000 Leadership Georgia participants have crisscrossed the state over the past three-plus decades, and the alumni organization – which continues to reunite each year on the Georgia coast – is a strong and interactive network, fulfilling the original vision and mission of J.W. Fanning and his team of co-founders.
Leadership Georgia stands apart as one of the nation’s oldest and most successful leadership-training programs for young business, civic and community leaders with the desire and potential to work together for a better Georgia. Its primary purpose is to identify, train, and inspire a network of emerging young leaders, whose ages typically range from 25 to 45 years old. WHO WE ARE … Affiliated with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the organization has fielded numerous highly influential state and national leaders. Among the ranks of Leadership Georgia alumni there are leaders in business, not-for-profit organizations, and elected officials including U.S. Senators, U.S. Congressmen, State Legislators, and a Georgia Secretary of State.
Approximately 60 participants, selected each year from a pool of several hundred applicants, visit five Georgia communities in an effort to learn more about important issues affecting the state. Diversity in gender, religion, race, occupation, and geographical location is a key factor in the selection of class members. Spousal participation is another key component separating Leadership Georgia from similar state programs across the country.
SELECTION AND PARTICIPATION IN LEADERSHIP GEORGIA IS AN HONOR, BUT WITH THIS HONOR COMES AN OBLIGATION TO USE ONE’S FULL TALENT, IDEAS AND ENERGY TO BUILD A BETTER GEORGIA FOR ALL OF ITS CITIZENS.
The organization is led entirely by an all-volunteer board of trustees, which is selected from previous Leadership Georgia classes to serve a three-year term. A volunteer advisor provides perspective and continuity, while a full-time paid manager of operations is responsible for daily office operations.
Leadership Georgia is a non-partisan organization and is not affiliated with any particular political party or ideology. Leadership Georgia seeks to find and develop a geographically, occupationally and ethnically diverse leadership across Georgia – without regard to political, social, religious or ethnic backgrounds.