My View: Learn how to lead, enhance the citys future


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.

As many of us have learned over the last few years, when times are good, a business or a community can absorb average management. Its easy to steer a ship when you have enough members on the crew, the wind is at your back and bounty is plentiful. Ive encountered and worked for many managers who call themselves leaders.  They would be wrong. Its when things get tough that you find out what you really need is strong, focused leadership to guide that ship home with a lack of staff, no momentum and no riches in the treasure chest.

Theres a saying that leaders are made, not born. But it is a combination of the two. You must have an intense desire to lead, or people simply wont follow you. Some other attributes I see: good judgment, ability to engage, inspire, and convince others, as well as make tough, wise decisions in the face of the unknown. Then I might throw in a little age, experience and education. To be a good leader in a community one must have an understanding of it an awareness of the needs of its constituents and a clear vision of where it needs to go for a successful future.

We have some good leaders in Alexandria. So how were they created? It seems they emerge from the business community or from groups highly active in civic issues.  For the last seven years, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce has provided a program called Leadership Alexandria. The program promotes the development of civic leadership and fosters opportunities for increased cooperation among the private, public and nonprofit sectors. It exposed a diverse group of participants to the many facets of our community, including how it works, whos in charge, and why collaboration is critical.  We launched the program in 2003 and graduated more than 180 people who now have a clear understanding of the total Alexandria community.

The program has proven valuable as evidenced by the actions of the people who graduated. Many of our graduates got involved in Alexandria by joining city commissions and committees. Others continued their community service by becoming even more active in the Chamber. We have graduated two police chiefs and one city council member, Frank Fannon all of whom went through the program before they obtained those positions.

Weve now set Leadership Alexandria out on its own course to continue its work. The program is graduating to the next level with alumni taking the helm and undergoing a year-long process of self-examination to determine its new model for creating leaders in Alexandria. The Chamber will continue to be a key supporter of the program, its vision and members.

Leadership programs have played a key role in many vibrant communities around the United States. They maintain a pipeline of leaders who are integral to a communitys future in every business and community sector. Leadership Alexandria is an important component for the future of the city. As members of the community, your support of such a program as it reemerges is critical.

I encourage you to support Leadership Alexandria as it reinvents itself to better serve the community. Sign up and participate in the program to learn more about Alexandria and how you can best serve in a leadership capacity to help us build a better tomorrow.

For more information about Leadership Alexandria, contact Mark Feldheim at

The writer is president and CEO of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.