21st Century Leaders is a collaboration of business and professional leaders inspiring high school students to take on leadership positions, explore career opportunities, and give back to their communities by connecting them with a diverse group of enthusiastic peers, passionate professionals and powerful ideas, transforming their skills, attitudes, and abilities through training and hands-on experiences.
In 1989, a group of executives saw two growing trends within their companies, 1) the need to prepare more managers and workers for increased leadership responsibility, and 2) the need for employees ready and able to cross class and racial barriers to work together. They believed the key to meeting these needs was building the next generation of leaders by providing young people with the training, guidance and encouragement necessary to enter college and the workforce with a highly developed set of leadership skills, and thus 21st Century Leaders, formerly The Georgia Business Forum, was established.
Our founding executive director, Robert Watson guided the organization from its inception in 1989 as a business-education partnership organization through its first strategic plan resulting in the organization’s emphasis on leadership and diversity to its current place as a premiere leadership and talent development organization for high school youth. Mr. Watson served the organization for 29 years until his retirement in 2018. “I continue to be inspired by the talent and enthusiasm of our high school students and those moments when they realize that becoming a leader is really all about helping others to do the same.”
21st Century Leaders’ strength and distinction lie in the engagement of business leaders and professionals as volunteers, the retooling of high-level corporate leadership training programs for our program delivery model, and an unyielding commitment to the power of diversity. Throughout our history, 21st Century Leaders has connected thousands of Georgia youth and business and professional volunteers for one purpose – to inspire the next generation of leaders to lead our businesses and our communities.
The purpose of our leadership programs are to:
- CONNECT students with a diverse group of peers professionals, ideas and organizations
- TRANSFORM student’s skill-sets, ideas and attitudes
- INSPIRE students to demonstrate leadership by planning for their future, taking on new leadership positions, seeking out new opportunities, and giving back to their communities
21CL values these five leadership qualities that each student should embody after attending our programs:
- Leverage Diversity
21CL programs are designed to help students discover, explore, and master the seven (7) foundational leadership competencies research indicates is needed for success in college and entry into the 21st Century work force.
- Communicating Effectively
- Problem Solving
- Action – Oriented
- Building Effective Teams
- Career Ambition