In 1992, my second year as Florida Trend publisher, I was offered a great opportunity to take part in Leadership Florida, a program that brings together leaders from all over the state to learn about issues that are shared by Florida's diverse communities.
One of the reasons I was excited about the program is that Leadership Florida's goals are very much in line with one of our goals here at Florida Trend: Helping develop a sense of statewide community.
Even though I'm a native Floridian and thought I knew a lot about my home state, Leadership Florida training showed me that I really had a lot to learn. I had met some of my classmates before, but I got to really know them through team-building activities that included helping to rebuild houses in Homestead after Hurricane Andrew. It seemed like all of us came home from our meetings with stories for our co-workers, friends and spouses about things we'd learned, our ideas and beliefs that had been both challenged and reinforced and a new way of seeing Florida and Floridians -- and how we all fit together.
Frank Ryll, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, was instrumental in starting Leadership Florida back in 1982 and modeled it on successful programs that he'd seen in Atlanta and South Carolina.
This year, Leadership Florida celebrates its 25th anniversary, and from my personal experience as a member of Class XI, as a board member for two terms and as a mentor in the College Leadership Florida program, the program has been a great benefit to its participants and to the state as a whole. Leadership Florida opened the door for me to serve on the Florida Chamber of Commerce board, and one of my classmates, Clarence Anthony, mayor of South Bay, went on to be president of the Florida League of Cities and later the National League of Cities.
The heart of Leadership Florida is its annual class program, with 55 men and women selected to participate. They meet over five weekends in an eight-month period, each time in a different part of the state, to learn about the issues that make Florida Florida.
Jeff Bartel, vice president of corporate and external affairs for FP&L and chairman of Leadership Florida, points out that the experience of Leadership Florida doesn't stop once the annual class program ends. "It is a lifelong learning and leadership process that ultimately brings diverse leaders from all walks of life, from all demographics, geographies and interests to look to themselves as trustees of the future of Florida and its leadership paradigm," Bartel says.
The 1,200-plus graduates of Leadership Florida are a diverse group: Chief executive officers of our state's top corporations, members of the Florida Cabinet, leading educators, farmers, non-profit executives, small-business owners, mayors and community volunteers. Some are journalists, including editors and publishers of many of our state's newspapers. Andy Corty, the president of Florida Trend, was a member of the first Leadership Florida class; Florida Trend Editor Mark Howard was in Class XVII.
If your company or organization is not already involved in Leadership Florida, I encourage you to think about nominating a candidate for the next class. Another option is to get your company involved as a sponsor. Either way, the rewards will be tremendous.
To learn more about Leadership Florida, call (850) 521-1222 or go to www.leadershipflorida.org.