The Changing Face of Leadership

Thirty years ago, Los Angeles was a different place. The silos of business, government and the social service sectors were well defined, and so was the power structure. But as author John Naisbitt noted in his 1982 best-selling book Megatrends, community leaders were moving their attention from Hierarchies to Networking.

In 1987, the roots of the Chamber’s Southern California Leadership Network (SCLN) were planted by a small group of community leaders. They had a vision of preparing emerging leaders to cross existing boundaries. In those early years, this movement was led by committed individuals like Dori Pye, Chamber board member Frank Sanchez and one of my predecessors, Ray Remy.

The first class of Leadership L.A., SCLN’s flagship program, included 15 individuals: 11 men and four women, primarily from the business sector. The second class grew to 25, and by design was a more diverse group representing business, labor, the social service sector and government. That class included such notable graduates as former U.S. Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Today, SCLN annually graduates 150 widely diverse professionals from across every sector of our region and state. Sixty percent of our graduates are women, and more than half are people of color. SCLN is a demonstration of evolving, collaborative and inclusive leadership. SCLN builds community knowledge and leadership skills through experiential learning paired with rich classroom discussions and a diverse cross-section of topic professionals and experienced problem solvers.

Today’s SCLN brings together the yoga studio owner from Venice, the business manager from the Inland Empire, the elected official from the Imperial Valley, the artist from East L.A, the farmer from the Central Valley, the health provider from Sacramento and the nonprofit leader from the Bay Area. They are collectively exposed to the issues that impact us all, bringing their diverse perspectives and knowledge sets together to explore solutions for the economic and social issues that dominate today’s headlines.

As a society, we cannot allow the challenges and opportunities we face as a community, region and state to tear us apart. Our goal must be to come together by approaching solutions from a broad array of experts, cultures and perspectives. That is the commitment of more than 3,000 SCLN alumni who know that collectively they have the power to drive change and make their world a better place.

On Nov. 30, from 3-6 p.m., SCLN is celebrating its 30th anniversary at the 2017 Visionaries Awards, at the iconic Theatre at Ace Hotel. We will be honoring 30 outstanding SCLN alumni who are change makers across our communities, region and state. I invite you to join us for a unique celebration of these notable leaders and bringing diverse groups of people together to address the challenges and opportunities we face.

And that’s The Business Perspective.

The Business Perspective is a weekly column by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Public Policy staff.