Organizations: Growing Leaders

During the course of his graduate research, Tim Elmore hit upon a magic number that he believes will change the world, student by student.

“It only takes one percent of a group to transform an entire culture,” he says. “Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Joan of Arc and others had the support of just one percent of their populations, but they altered history for all of us. So I started wondering what the world would look like if we mobilized and equipped one percent of the emerging generation to lead. Just how far could we move the needle toward progress?”

In 2003, he founded Growing Leaders, a nonprofit based in Norcross. The program, with a staff of 12 and a team of volunteer speakers, targets high school and college students – “ages 16 to 24, the formative years for pivotal decisions” – around the globe to help them maximize their strengths and take the reins in politics, the arts, medicine, social work, sports and other fields.

Growing Leaders has partnered with educators and parents in 7,000 schools, reaching more than 700,000 students with workshops, videos, teaching guides and other resources that promote “Habitudes” – visually driven lessons in critical thinking, empathy and effective goal-setting. “Photos and images help these leadership principles stick,” Elmore says, noting that his organization donates these materials to financially strapped schools.

Habitudes, meanwhile, have been translated into 14 languages, and Growing Leaders aims to reach 40 million students worldwide.

“What’s gratifying is to meet these students later when they’ve graduated from Yale and are building a hospital in Zaire,” Elmore says. “Start them on the right path at the right time, and they soar.”

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